ACT considers decriminalisation
A bill to decriminalise small amounts of MDMA, heroin, ice and other drugs will soon be introduced in the ACT.
Labor MLA Michael Pettersson introduced a private member's bill in 2018 to legalise cannabis that was passed.
The backbencher has now prepared a bill to make Canberra the first place in Australia to decriminalise illicit drugs such as heroin, MDMA and methamphetamines.
“We've had laws of prohibition in place for about 100 years. In that 100 years, somehow, 43 per cent of Australians have used an illicit substance [including cannabis],” Mr Pettersson says.
“That tells me that the criminal justice system isn't the deterrent we think it is.
“If someone is using drugs, the best way to get them to stop is to sit them down with a doctor.”
Mr Pettersson says community support for decriminalisation is “way out ahead” of politicians.
The most recent National Drug Strategy Household Survey has found that just 20 per cent of people support a prison sentence or community service for someone found to possess MDMA.
Only about a quarter of people support prison or community service for someone caught in possession of heroin.
Canberra became Australia’s second jurisdiction to decriminalise cannabis in 1992, Mr Pettersson says his bill is likely to follow that path.
“For individual consumers caught with small amounts of drugs, those people should be diverted to a health pathway, receive a fine and have the substance confiscated,” he said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr says he welcomes Mr Pettersson's bill.
“This is an important public policy debate. I'm pleased Michael has put this on the legislative agenda for 2021,” he said.
“The process from here will see a Legislative Assembly committee conduct an examination of the policy issues and the proposed legislation.
“It may then come before the Legislative Assembly for a vote towards the end of 2021.”