The personal possession of small amounts of the most commonly used illicit drugs will be decriminalised in the ACT following a 12-month transition period. This work follows the passage of the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Possession) Amendment Bill 2022 in the ACT Legislative Assembly this week.
The legislation will be enacted to ensure that it achieves the aim of harm minimisation for our community.
From late October 2023, the possession of small amounts of certain illicit drugs will be decriminalised. This means people will no longer be exposed to potential prison sentences and instead may be issued a $100 fine or referred to an illicit drug diversion program. If the matter proceeds to court, the person will face a maximum $160 fine, reduced from 50 penalty units and/or two years in prison.
This reform will reduce the stigma and fear for people who are using drugs to access health services. By diverting people to a drug diversion program, people who use drugs will be offered the health services and support they need while providing a pathway away from the criminal justice system.
This reform also reduces the maximum prison sentence for personal possession of drugs above a small amount. The Bill does not legalise drugs or reduce penalties for drug dealers.
The ACT Government will now take the next 12 months prior to the reform commencing to implement oversight arrangements, deliver training for frontline workers, including police. Public and targeted communications will also be developed with stakeholders including ACT Policing, the alcohol and drug sector, and people with lived experience.
These changes have been made with extensive consultation and input from policy experts, local and national drug and alcohol sector advocates, service providers, ACT Government Directorates and ACT Policing.
The ACT Government invests more than $26 million each year in specialist alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment and support services.
ACT Health is currently preparing the ACT Drug Strategy Action Plan 2022-2026 which is open for public consultation. More information can be found here.