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ACT government to decriminalise small amounts of drugs including ice, MDMA and cocaine

The ACT will become the first Australian territory to enact decriminalisation for small amounts of illicit drugs. It will include ice, heroin, cocaine, MDMA and speed.

This isn’t the first health-based legislative approach to drugs in the ACT with the country’s capital decriminalising marijuana way back in 2019.

The particular bill means users found with personal amounts of the listed drugs won’t be charged and instead issued fines, in line with proposed recent changes in NSW by the Attorney General. The ACT government says those found above what is deemed personal amounts will still face the usual criminal charges.

As it stands, personal use is defined as 2 grams for most illicit substances, 0.5 grams for MDMA (ecstasy) or 0.002 grams for LSD (acid).

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson introduced an inquiry into the proposal to decriminalise small amounts of drugs and looks to have found government support from the Labor-Greens majority. He was also behind the decriminalisation of marijuana as well.

The ACT was one of the few places that did trial drug testing with touring festival Groovin The Moo for a handful of years before discontinuing this year, possibly in preparation for this move.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith weighed in by saying; “We know from research and evidence around the world that criminalising drug users does not reduce drug use, and that treating drug addiction as a health issue improves outcomes for everyone in the community,” further adding “This legislation is part of our broader suite of policies developed in partnership with experts, people with lived experience and our alcohol and other drug sector to support those most in need to get the help and services they need when they need them.”

A 2021 survey found Canberrans ‘overwhelmingly’ supported decriminalising drugs with only 1 in 10 supporting imprisonment for drug possession.

If it becomes law it will conflict with Federal laws around drug possession with the federal government able to take the ACT government to court and strike down the law as it has done in the past for euthanasia and same-sex marriage before the latter was passed federally.

The government still does view drugs as harmful and will continue to disrupt the supply.

What do you make of it all?

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