Page 452 - Week 02 - Thursday, 11 February 2021

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facing the judicial system, and I think that we can all agree that those who traffic and supply drugs should be the ones who face criminal charges, not consumers. People should not be arrested and shamed for their drug use. This can lead to a terrible cycle of recidivism—put simply, there is a terrible outcome for everyone.

I would like to point out that the decriminalisation model presented in this bill is exactly the same decriminalisation model that still exists in ACT law for certain users of cannabis. I have not conjured up a new system here. All I am saying is that if people thought that that system was good enough for decriminalisation before, let us start the conversation there and see where it goes. While I have proposed amendments to our decriminalisation framework for possession, there are other relevant laws that still leave people open to criminal prosecution that have not been included in this drafting. If we can now agree that drug use is a public health issue, offences such as self-administering in the ACT Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act need to be reviewed. These charges carry a maximum penalty of a $16,000 fine and/or a year in prison. This bill does not fix the entire problem, but it is a first step in the right direction, and this, too, should be considered.

Whilst I most commonly speak about the health benefits in changing how we treat this issue, there are clear benefits to the justice system, too. In the year after cannabis was legalised, cannabis-related offences have decreased by 90 per cent, freeing up police time and resources to tackle the real issues in our community. A simple offence notice system, confiscation and referral to proper treatment options saves court time, legal costs, police time and taxpayer money. In the end, it provides a better outcome, too.

The personal possession limits set out in this legislation have been chosen so as not to coincide with trafficable amounts set out in commonwealth law. When drafting this bill I wanted to avoid ambiguity that might result in a person possessing a certain quantity of drugs, which, under two different legal frameworks, have wildly different consequences—one being a civil offence for possession, the other being a commonwealth trafficking charge. I acknowledge that the possession limits under commonwealth and territory law are wildly different. I think that it is obvious to most people who look at commonwealth thresholds that they are not grounded in lived experience. The current ACT criminal possession thresholds are far more informed by what happens in the real world.

I hope that in the consideration of this bill we can have a sensible discussion about what these thresholds should be, because I do not think that the current thresholds, as I present this bill to you, are perfect, but are simply based on minimising conflict. I think that it is also worth acknowledging that the limits in this proposed legislation are based on the weight of the substance as opposed to a normal consumption unit, like a pill or a tab. I understand that this is not a perfect model but our current legislation is specified by weight. I think that it is worth starting a conversation about these limits; and I note that there is community interest in this too. There are benefits to this framework because it is simpler for people who consume drugs and for police, and it acknowledges the reality of people being unaware of the specifics of what they are consuming.

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