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