23 December 2020

Probing the polls: decriminalising drug possession and stricter safety measures

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Spanish flu 1919

Would we all be better off masked like these women in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919? Photo: National Museum of Australia.

There’s a distinct divergence of opinions about proposals to decriminalise the possession of small quantities of drugs, floated by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson in the final Assembly sittings for 2020.

Possession of drugs like cocaine, heroin and MDMA could be decriminalised in the ACT as early as next year for quantities falling below the Commonwealth Government’s drug trafficking threshold.

The new legislation does not remove the threat of jail entirely. The choice to apply the civil penalty is at the discretion of the police. The civil penalty gives officers a third option if they cannot refer the person to a diversion program.

But RiotACT readers were divided on the value of the proposal.

Mike of Canberra said: “All the weasel words in the world can’t change the fact that if you legalise something, you legitimise it. MDMA and heroin in particular aren’t relatively harmless recreational drugs like marijuana. They are addictive, mind-altering, personality changing and have the potential to lead not only to crime but to violent crime.”

But Klug said: “One of the reasons I ended up using drugs is because I was young uneducated and depressed, at the end of the day I don’t use hard drugs anymore as I got medical and professional help to overcome my old drug addictions, but my point is that at the end of the day if someone does want to use drugs for whatever reason (maybe your own family members) wouldn’t you feel a little bit better knowing that the drugs that are being used are at its cleanest purest and no cutting agents (the real killer ingredient) you can take a horse to water, but it’s smarter to make the river cleaner before the horse does drink.”

We asked: Should we decriminalise possessing small quantities of heroin, cocaine and MDMA? A total of 945 votes were cast.

Your choices were No, it’s a slippery slope and encourages criminal dealers. This option was chosen by 57 per cent of voters, or 539 votes. Alternatively you could choose to vote Yes, it makes sense to divert people from the criminal system. This received 43 per cent of the total, or 406 votes.

This week, we’re wondering whether you think we should be mandating mask-wearing? The Northern Beaches COVID-19 outbreak has been a frightening experience for many and is particularly close to home for Canberrans with family members and friends on the peninsula.

So far, the ACT remains relatively safe. Police began intercepting vehicles on the Federal highway before Christmas and tighter restrictions were imposed on out of state visitors than at any time during the pandemic. But as the crisis continues to bubble, should Canberrans be taking more precautions?

Our question this week is:

Should we be wearing masks and taking greater precautions in the ACT?

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