The Australian Greens will continue a national drug decriminalisation tour this week, holding round table meetings on ending prosecutions for individual user.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale has long called for decriminalisation of drugs in Australia, under which the drugs would still be illegal to supply but no criminal charges would apply for users.
He told ABC radio on Monday drug use should be treated as a health issue, with police resources diverted to treatment services.
In August last year Mr Di Natale pointed to Portugal’s policy of not making personal possession of drugs a criminal offence: ‘And it’s a policy that fits in with what I learned as a doctor working in a drug and alcohol clinic.
‘The people I saw as patients had a lot in common. They struggled with physical drug dependence and with the other things that anchor us in our lives like family, friends, relationships, a job and a roof over our heads – they struggled to manage all of those things.
‘They often had mental illness – anxiety, depression or psychosis. Sometimes these illnesses were triggered by their drug use, sometimes they preceded it.
‘One thing that definitely doesn’t help them is getting caught up in the criminal justice system. For someone struggling just to get off drugs and keep a roof over their head, an encounter with the law is almost guaranteed to erase any progress they had made.
‘We wouldn’t arrest people for developing diabetes, but other patients struggling with a serious health issue could easily find themselves under arrest and facing charges. We actively intervene to minimise any chance they have of recovery.
‘And even if they do recover, they still have the obstacle of a criminal record which can severely limit any prospects of future employment.’