24 May 2021

ACT pushes ahead with static pill testing, safe injecting room

| Dominic Giannini
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Michael Pettersson

The Committee inquiry into Michael Pettersson’s decriminalisation bill has released a new survey. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The ACT Government is pushing ahead with a static pill testing site and a safe injecting room as part of its broader drug-harm minimisation strategy.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith toured a Melbourne safe injecting room last month during a health minister’s meeting to hear the pros and cons of the Victoria model before a similar measure is brought to the ACT.

Ms Stephen-Smith said in addition to the site being a safe space, it doubled as a place where users could engage in conversations with people they trust about getting treatment.

“There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Sydney and Melbourne in how the facilities have been set up, whether that is entering into drug and alcohol rehabilitation or getting support for other health and wellbeing supports,” she said.

“Even things like starting to have a conversation about the trauma background they might have which resulted in them turning to illicit drug use in the first place and self-medicating as a response to that.

“It is not just about somewhere where people can go and use drugs in a relatively safe environment, but it is also about creating that safe space for people to be able to open up and access other supports which then help to improve their lives overall.”

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the government is committed to its harm minimisation approach to alcohol and drug policy. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Ms Stephen-Smith will advise her Assembly colleagues over the next few weeks about the logistics, and legal and practical issues around having safe injecting rooms in the city.

The Legislative Assembly Committee tasked with reviewing legislation to decriminalise small quantities of drugs of dependence in the ACT has also just opened a public survey, seeking feedback from the public about best practices, the impacts of the current policy and how small drug offences should be treated.

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The legislation, which Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson introduced, would fine Canberrans caught with personal possession amounts of the drugs instead of carrying a potential two-year jail term.

Mr Pettersson said the current criminal justice system isn’t the deterrent we think it is.

“Canberra is having a very healthy conversation about the impact drugs have on our society and our city,” he said.

“I encourage all members of the community to engage with the Standing Committee as it inquires into the Drugs of Dependence Personal Use amendment bill. I think all Canberrans should have their voice heard.”

The new legislation does not remove the threat of jail entirely, with the choice to apply the civil penalty being left up to the discretion of police.

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READ MOREPettersson puts cocaine, heroin, MDMA decriminalisation on the agenda

Mr Pettersson spearheaded the legislative change that legalised marijuana possession and recently gave evidence before a Victorian parliamentary committee’s inquiry into the use of cannabis in the state.

You can fill out the Committee’s survey about decriminalising personal amounts of drugs in the ACT via Survey Monkey or send a written submission to the Select Committee.

The Committee has extended the closing dates for both the survey and submissions to Friday, 11 June.

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Apart from harm to individuals the money gained from illicit drug sales does untold harm in communities – if you take illicit drugs you are sponsoring criminals who pay no taxes and operate outside the law, Ice is a violent curse across cities and regional Australia – not too sure about legalising it though I agree that safe injecting rooms are a good idea as is buying from a chemist – cut out the dealers.

Great to see progress to end the failed war on drugs. I just hope this new approach of calling everyone who dares to use drugs a victim in need of treatment is just a gateway (for lack of a better term) to legalisation.

Capital Retro7:15 am 28 May 21

The “war” is not against drugs, it’s against the crime that is associated with procuring and selling illicit and unlawful substances.

You’ve completely missed the point of this article and broader discussion; The criminal measures taken against consumers are having no impact on the drug trade – they are just imposing misery and punishment on users and huge expenses of taxpaypers, all while failing to even marginally disrupt criminal activity.

Its a terrible outcome for everyone from users through to rate payers like you. The only beneficiary of this current model is the highly profitable criminal organisations who opperate without regulation and pay zero tax.

They are the only group who I can see as having a valid reason for opposing this change.

Capital Retro,
so you agree that the best course of action to remove the criminal element is for the government to legalise, manufacture, sell and regulate these products legally to the public?

Legalise and regulate – yes, these should be the roll of government (alongside taxing, educating and providing health services)
manufacture & sell – The private sector seems better placed than the government to do this, as is case with other vices (alcohol, tobacco and gambling) and generally the case in jurisdictions that have started to roll back prohibition on drugs.

Better late than never.

For people with chronic pain and medical issues, they used to be able to buy codeine and other pain medication over the counter at the chemist after talking to the pharmacist. However, this was recently taken away, and now people with genuine medical issues and in pain have to make an appointment and get a script from a doctor. Why should drug addicts get better rights than others in the community? Many people in the community are in pain and need help. If you are a drug addict in the ACT, you are free to take whatever you drug you want, and a ‘safe room’ will even be provided for you for free. It’s a stupid idea that benefits no one. Just crazy talk.

And let’s not forget the new public housing complexes in Lyneham, built at a cost of $5m, which have unusable underground carparks due to no security and junkies using it for a shooting gallery. You can commit whatever crime you like in there and you can assault anyone you like without fear of consequences, just don’t do it to a public servant you will be in 100 times more trouble. The ‘government’ is allowing junkies to comandeer these places with no regards whatsoever for the community. Even the new victims of crime charter does not mention public housing because ‘government’ has a hidden, or not so hidden agenda to keep the crims in control of the complex and ignore the right to peaceful enjoyment that is upheld by any other landlord. Victims rights are ignored and we are treated like a pest and have to go to court. Until there is a change of government nothing will change while the common good is disrespected it’s a disgrace

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