ACT To Decriminalise Small Amounts Of Illicit Drugs Including Ice And Heroin

"Progressive health-focused reform”

Article heading image for ACT To Decriminalise Small Amounts Of Illicit Drugs Including Ice And Heroin


In an Australian first, the ACT is set to decriminalise small amounts of illicit drugs, like methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and speed.

The proposed law would see people busted with smaller than trafficable quantities subject to fines rather than criminal charges.

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Shifting the focus away from small-time users, police will instead target dealers to disrupt Canberra's drug trade.

The decision comes after a Legislative Assembly inquiry into the proposal was tabled by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson last year.

The bill argued that drug use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal one.

Mr Pattersson's bill proposed that those caught in possession would pay a Simple Drug Offence Notice fine and be referred to a health professional, rather than jail time.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on Thursday said the change was another "progressive health-focused reform" leading the nation.

"We know from research and evidence around the world that criminalising drug users does not reduce drug use, and that treating drug addiction as a health issue improves outcomes for everyone in the community," Ms Stephen-Smith said.

"This legislation is part of our broader suite of policies developed in partnership with experts, people with lived experience and our alcohol and other drug sector to support those most in need to get the help and services they need when they need them

“The amended Bill will continue our journey to genuinely treating drug use primarily as a public health matter, rather than through the criminal justice system,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“My hope is that this will help to reduce the stigma experienced by people who use illicit drugs, encouraging more people coming forward to receive support

- Ms Stephen-Smith

The legislation will be reviewed in three years to ensure it remains fit for purpose.

The ACT is also the only Australian state or territory to have decriminalised the personal use of cannabis.


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9 June 2022

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