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The research evidence indicates that decriminalisation of drug use:
There is strong public support in Australia for decriminalisation.
Many countries around the world have already decriminalised drug use and possession.
The World Health Organization has recommended the decriminalisation of injecting and other drug use, in partnership with the United Nations.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy has long supported such an approach, and have advocated that ‘there must be no penalty whatsoever imposed for low‑level possession and/or consumption offenses.’
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians have stated that governments ‘need to move away from the dominant paradigm of criminality’, and increase focus on health and wellbeing, through the removal and replacement of criminal penalties, and health interventions, to target ‘an individual’s use of a drug where no serious harm is caused to others.’
This has been the de facto position in Victoria for decades – it is what our drug diversion programs have set out to achieve since the 1980s. But they have huge gaps and strict eligibility requirements, inconsistent services and a reliance on the exercise of police discretion limit access to many. The result is that large numbers of people continue to be policed and sanctioned simply for drug use alone.
You can change this.
Urge your local MP to support the trial so that instead of a criminal charge, police will issue a ‘Drug Education or Treatment Notice’ – requiring a program to be completed within 12 months.
Will you join us by writing to your MP and asking them to support the trial?
It’s really easy – just fill in the form and all the work’s done for you. A standard letter is included but you can change it if you want. Remember to be specific and courteous.
Help us in our fight! Donations to Reason will help amplify our voice and put pressure on the government to decriminalise.
Decriminalisation does not mean legalisation – decriminalisation is the removal of criminal penalties for specific offences. When we talk about decriminalisation of drug use or possession, we are talking about removal of penalties for those offences, but not offences like drug trafficking, manufacture or supply.
No. International evidence is that drug use levels change little if at all after decriminalisation, but it’s hard to get accurate figures, as data collection and analysis methods vary around the world. People with drug problems are connected to the health experts who can help guide recovery. It’s a way of reducing harm, as are diversion programs, safe-injecting spaces, needle exchanges, and narcotic substitutes.
Decriminalisation advocates do not assert using drugs is OK. Drugs are dangerous. Supporters of decriminalisation accept the evidence showing treating problematic drug use as a health problem, not a criminal one, is the most effective and efficient way to reduce harm to health and wellbeing.
Absolutely, evidence shows. Far more problem users receive health treatment, rather than being thrust into the criminal justice system. Overdoses, other drug-related deaths and infection are reduced. But it’s just part of the reform required to place harm minimisation at the centre of drug policy. Other elements include public education, treatment programs and a redeployment of law enforcement resources to counter drug traffickers.
The possession and use of a small quantity of cannabis has been decriminalised in South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. In those jurisdictions a criminal penalty is replaced with a civil law scheme.
Instead of receiving a criminal penalty for drug use or possession, a person will receive a notice from the police that requires them to undertake drug education or treatment.