A cabinet leak on Wednesday revealed that the NSW government will move away from criminal convictions for minor drug use in a move that has been hailed as a ‘game-changer’ by Greens MP and Drug Law Reform Spokesman Cate Faehrmann.
Under the proposed reforms, individuals caught with personal quantities of illicit substances will be given three chances before criminal penalties apply. A warning will be issued on the first offence, followed by fines for the next two offences.
The proposed changes represent a major relaxation in the Berejiklian governments previous attitudes towards drugs.
‘Young people have been harassed for too long in NSW for simply doing something that almost half of us have done in our lifetimes, and that is use an illegal drug. With one in six Australian adults having used an illicit drug in the past year, it’s clear that the war on drugs has failed’. Ms Faehrmann said.
War on drugs not working
The changes come following an NSW special commission of inquiry into Ice that made 109 recommendations including a proposed pathway towards decriminalisation.
The government continues to rule out decriminalisation, despite rising public support for progressive drug reform. A national study by the Australian Institute of Health earlier this year found that the majority of Australians were in support of a health and safety approach to tackling drugs.
Around the world, many countries have already begun to move towards health orientated approaches to drug reforms with great success. Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001 and has since recorded drastic drops in overdoses and drug-related crime.
More recently, Americans voted to pass all eight drug reform ballots that were up for voting which included complete decriminalisation in the state of Oregon.
‘Across the world, we are seeing the dominoes fall, ‘said Ms Faehrmann.
‘Along with these changes, it’s important that resources spent on policing are now diverted to drug rehabilitation and harm reduction services’.