Page 3495 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 October 2022

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MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (6.00): Today is an important day. Some people think that this journey started in late 2020, when I first proposed this private member’s bill, but the journey started well before then.

Thirty years ago, our predecessors in this place decriminalised the possession of small amounts of cannabis. They realised that the war on drugs was a failed policy, and that the criminalisation of Canberrans who were otherwise law-abiding citizens was doing more harm than good. They did a very brave thing back then. They stood up and said, “These criminal laws do not represent our values.” They decriminalised the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Here we are, 30 years later, continuing their work.

Today’s bill is not a radical revolution. It is a gradual evolution of our existing laws. The simple cannabis offence notice has existed for 30 years, and it has worked reasonably effectively as a framework for decriminalisation. Today we have expanded that framework. I think that is a very good thing. The many benefits of that scheme, for many years, will now be applied to a wider range of substances that will capture more Canberrans, with the ultimate goal of making it easier for them to access the help that they need.

Something that I have witnessed from some of the conservative arguments in this debate is that the mere existence of criminal laws, to them, causes no harm. That is blatantly not true. The criminalisation of these substances makes it harder for people to get the help they need. When you speak to people who have watched people die of an overdose because they were scared to call for help, that stays with you. These laws have chilling effects. That is why I am very proud of the Assembly today for voting for a better way.

I would like to thank many people. First and foremost, I thank my colleagues for their contributions today, and I thank their offices over a long period of time for bringing us to this place. There are many staff, as well as members, that have got us here.

With respect to the wider community, the many people who have told their stories, time and again, over years and years, hoping for a better way, for them, this is a good day. I say to the AOD sector, who do tremendous work each and every day, that I only hope we can serve you as you need to be served.

Today is a milestone day. It is an important day. Tomorrow we will wake up, go back to work and get to work on implementing this very important reform.

Amendment agreed to.

Title, as amended, agreed to.

Question put:

That this bill, as amended, be agreed to.

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