ACT pushes ahead with static pill testing, safe injecting room

Dominic Giannini 24 May 2021 39
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.


READ ALSO: Decriminalisation isn’t legalisation, so let’s stop pretending it is


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.


READ MORE: Pettersson 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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39 Responses to ACT pushes ahead with static pill testing, safe injecting room
spmm spmm 5:00 pm 27 May 21

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.

paulmuster paulmuster 11:14 am 27 May 21

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 Retro Capital Retro 7:15 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.

    paulmuster paulmuster 9:30 am 28 May 21

    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.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:25 am 28 May 21

    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?

    paulmuster paulmuster 5:13 pm 02 Jun 21

    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.

Bryce Jarvis Bryce Jarvis 9:25 pm 26 May 21

Anyone that doesn't think this is a good idea, should research a little bit about Portugals stance on illegal drugs. Stop criminalizing and marginalizing people who have the right to put into their bodies whatever they want to. Otherwise get out ya pitchforks and start burning at the stake anybody who drinks alcohol and that takes any prescription drugs as well. People are free to use whatever they want, what we shouldn't do is put those people more at risk which then in turn creates more social and health issues and costs for everyone involved directly or indirectly.

Deref Deref 12:56 pm 26 May 21

Better late than never.

jorie1 jorie1 10:29 am 26 May 21

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.

    mickos mickos 6:40 pm 27 May 21

    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

Trish Casey Trish Casey 9:00 am 26 May 21

Look after elderly people and those with disabilities living in broken down housing and stop threatening them with paying for their own maintenance

Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 5:16 am 26 May 21

Yes yes and yes! The safe injection room in Kingston Cross has been open for 20 years and they have not lost of person to an overdoes on site, not one person!!!

Also, there is a global drug and black market that will never stop sending drugs all over the world. It's not a matter of "let's ban drugs". Prohibition didn't stop the alcohol for getting out and guess what ALCHOL is the WORST drug in the world, it does the MOST damage to a person, family and society, and yet its sold everywhere and is ingrained in our daily lives. Studies have shown that punishment does not work, what works is support and care for people suffering a drug addiction.

    Bryce Jarvis Bryce Jarvis 9:19 pm 26 May 21

    Liz Blossom finally someone that knows what they're talking about and isn't just spewing inaccurate vile from their holes.

Michael Ilsley Michael Ilsley 8:44 pm 25 May 21

Why can't people purchase want they want to from a chemist and take responsibility for their actions. If an 18 yr old takes unknown substances and dies, that's our stupidity.

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 5:16 am 26 May 21

    Michael Ilsley unfortunately, the world wasn't designed like that.

Lisa Morr Lisa Morr 7:49 pm 25 May 21

how about focus on fixing the health, education, housing etc systems instead of wasting time on drug legislation. There are bigger issues to deal with, this isn't a school captaincy campaigning for better vending machines. Take your job seriously!

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 5:18 am 26 May 21

    Lisa Morr good points but there's an entire global drug market, black market, bad people out there that will never stop, this will actually save lives, maybe even change lives for the better.

    Lisa Morr Lisa Morr 8:03 am 26 May 21

    this will also increase the market to keep the bikies in town. It won't save the lives of the ones who won the genetic lottery and have to live with lifelong psychosis/addiction issues from 'experimentation.' See Anna Wood

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 8:04 am 26 May 21

    Lisa Morr I don't think its that black and white, but I respect you opinion.

    Lisa Morr Lisa Morr 8:24 am 26 May 21

    the pill testing and injecting rooms- fine. But decriminalising 'small amounts' is a creep too far. Agree, it's not a clear cut issue- that's why there needs to be further debate and inquiry, not just a quick discussion in the Assembly like the cannabis change.

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 8:27 am 26 May 21

    Lisa Morr I mean, giving someone a criminal record for have a gram of cannibis on them is a little harsh, but that's just. But I agree..we need more discussion and debate.

David Brown David Brown 7:30 pm 25 May 21

Instead of supporting crime, recreational drugs should be sold through pharmacies. No crims. Quality control. Safer for our kids.

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 5:18 am 26 May 21

    David Brown black market, global drug ring and crime will never go away, this will actually minimise harm and save lives.

    David Brown David Brown 9:20 am 26 May 21

    Liz Blossom You are correct but my idea will minimise it much further.

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 9:21 am 26 May 21

    David Brown oh forrr sure. I think I misread your comment initially haha but yes..I agree

Darcy Ryan Darcy Ryan 6:31 pm 25 May 21

Why is the mad left insistent on normalising illegal drug use. The police should search every person heading to a drug test tent.

    Casey Minns Casey Minns 8:51 pm 25 May 21

    Darcy Ryan because Darcy it’s very extreme to leap from ‘I disagree with people who do illegal things’ to ‘people who do illegal things literally deserve to die’ and that’s what these schemes are designed to prevent

    Ngaire Harvey Ngaire Harvey 10:40 pm 25 May 21

    Darcy Ryan because those using the drugs have parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and mates that all love them and want them to live. The issue of drugs is complex and prohibition and punishment has done little to reduce the harm and costs (both fiscal and social). If it was your child or best mate or favourite aunty (like someone you really love) and they chose to use, even just once socially, would your preference be that they test the substance and then make an informed and less risky choice?

    デ スティーブ デ スティーブ 12:03 am 26 May 21

    Casey Minns the issue is innocent people suffer perhaps even die, as a result of our healthcare systems and ambulances having to respond to needless drug addiction callous and drug fuelled hospitalisations.

    We could have excellent healthcare and welfare systema if we took a hard line approach to drugs, like Singapore and other countries do.

    It's the secondary impacts, to others and the community that people forget about.

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 5:20 am 26 May 21

    Darcy Ryan there is an entire global drug ring and black market that will never go away. This could actually save live, educate people about drug use and maybe even change some lives for the better. Global drug and black market will always find a way to get drugs in.

    Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 9:12 am 26 May 21

    Ngaire Harvey if you research, injecting rooms and legalising drugs has done little to reduce the social and fiscal harm and cost of drug use

    Darcy Ryan Darcy Ryan 10:58 am 27 May 21

    Liz Blossom so by allowing it and people buying drugs supports and strengthens the black market.

    Liz Blossom Liz Blossom 11:04 am 27 May 21

    No, its not about that, its about the people who are trapped in the addiction. Its about harm minimisation, because people will do drugs regardless, illegal and legal.

Yogi Patches Yogi Patches 5:58 pm 25 May 21

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-24/two-workers-safe-injecting-room-arrested-alleged-drug-traffiking/11636758

Cassandra Ward Cassandra Ward 2:51 pm 25 May 21

Michael Pettersson MLA good picture 😊

    Cassandra Ward Cassandra Ward 3:23 pm 25 May 21

    Michael Pettersson MLA true but definitely not bad 😊

    Grant Grant Grant Grant 3:23 pm 25 May 21

    He's a lot hotter in real life

    Cassandra Ward Cassandra Ward 3:35 pm 25 May 21

    Grant Grant isn't everyone 😊, I went to school with Michael so this definitely isn't a bad pic

    Grant Grant Grant Grant 3:37 pm 25 May 21

    Cassandra Ward not everyone....john howard looks like a tennis ball with bushy eyebrows in person.

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