2 August 2022

'Do the job properly': Greens push government to go further with drug decriminalisation

| Lottie Twyford
Join the conversation
Johnathan Davis

ACT Greens spokesperson for drug reform Johnathan Davis is calling on the government to do the job of drug decriminalisation once and properly. Photo: Region.

The battle over drug decriminalisation is expected to heat up with the ACT Greens to push the government even further when the bill comes up for debate today (3 August).

Greens spokesperson for drug reform Johnathan Davis has raised concerns about some of the government’s proposed amendments, which it will table today, arguing they risk criminalising vulnerable people.

He also opposes the government’s proposed upper limits for drug possession.

“If you’re going to do a job, do it properly,” he said.

Mr Davis will present his proposed changes to the bill today.

The Canberra Liberals remain in strident opposition to the bill, saying it will lead to more people using drugs.

Michael Pettersson

Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson introduced a private members bill in February last year which proposed decriminalising small amounts of illicit drugs. Photo: Region.

In June, Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith announced the government would move ahead with the push started by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson to decriminalise small amounts of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin and MDMA.

Mr Pettersson introduced the private member’s bill in February 2021.

That bill was then referred to a Legislative Assembly standing committee which concluded it should be passed but some of the upper limits should be rethought.

However, the chair of the committee, Liberal MLA Peter Cain, provided a dissenting report.

Other critics have claimed the bill would make the ACT a target for drug trafficking.

READ ALSO Largest piece of space junk in four decades crashes into Snowy Mountains farm

The original bill proposed decriminalising possession of up to two grams of cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines and 0.5 grams of MDMA.

The government’s proposed amendments are expected to reduce those thresholds to 1.5 grams for amphetamines, cocaine and methylamphetamine, for example.

MDMA would be limited to 1.5 grams and heroin to one gram.

It would also allow people caught with drugs to have the option to either pay a $100 fine or be directed to attend a health-based drug diversion program.

The government also wants the bill to be reviewed after two years of operation.

Rachel Stephen-Smith

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith announced the government would move ahead with the drug decriminalisation bill in June. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

A further amendment would include adjusting the personal possession limits so they are “not more” rather than “less than” set amounts.

The government’s amendments also create a new kind of composite offence where possessing multiple drugs that total over two small quantities leads to an $8000 fine or a six months’ jail time.

The Greens argue this is effectively retaining criminal penalties for the personal possession of drugs and risks criminalising vulnerable people.

“The ACT Greens have always championed drug law reform because we know that a compassionate society supports our most vulnerable and that drug use should be considered a health issue, not a criminal one,” Mr Davis said.

He will introduce further amendments of his own today which would retain the current personal possession thresholds initially proposed by Mr Pettersson.

READ ALSO ‘No parent should have to suffer this’: Rozalia Spadafora’s family speaks as internal hospital review launched

Mr Davis has also proposed an exemption for all adults to the charge of possession of all drugs, similar to the current exemption in place for the possession of cannabis.

He said the war on drugs had failed and it was time to try something else.

“We need to do this right the first time and listen to experts and evidence in this space and not make knee-jerk reactions based on what feels right or what protects the status quo,” he said.

The debate on the bill today is expected to be long with several members wanting to contribute.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Smack, coke, MDMA ghb ketamine some benzos all should be legal

All drugs except ice should be dicrimanalised

Capital Retro3:19 pm 04 Aug 22

Is it true that Davis has a wall sign in his office that says: “Reality is an illusion caused by lack of drugs?”

What’s the impact on the ED and other services. Doing this is going to cost a fortune.
Drugs should be a federal issue and should be managed there.

The Greens will not be completely happy until more innocent drivers are killed on our roads by those under the influence of hard drugs.

The courts already have wide discretion, and frequently apply soft or no sentence for ‘vulnerable people’.

Why give everyone the green light here?

This sums up Jeremy and the Canberra Liberals at the moment. The beginning of the clip looks to me like a branch meeting! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQiOA7euaYA

Of course you lost the war – you’ve got hardly any soldiers to fight

As I recall, one of the issues is that there are Commonwealth laws criminalising the possession of drugs and these over-ride those of the ACT if there is a conflict. We just don’t have the jurisdiction to unilaterally decriminalise drugs as such.

swaggieswaggie10:15 am 03 Aug 22

I’ve been quietly impressed by Mr Davis as a local MLA, enough to think about voting green for the first time in my life at the next election. Then he declares “Drug use is not and never will be a health issue.” !!!! That’s one less potential Green vote lost .

Have you been impressed because he’s been pretty much invisible?

why would you vote for the Greens, they have destroyed Canberra, always follow their agendas.. Drug use, even small, destroys people lives and health, i have seen what i does, from pot upwards ~~~

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.