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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 November 2021) . . Page.. 3824 ..

One of the most important lessons we have learnt from COVID-19 is the importance of deeply considered public health approaches that emphasise equality, safety and health over punitive responses to human behaviour. Knowing that drug use is common and is undertaken by people from a broad cross-section of society only emphasises the fact that it is the responsibility of progressive, evidence-based governments to try and reduce the possible harms of drug use. The drugs are not evil and people are not evil; stigma, discrimination and inaction are evil.

It is time to take a health and wellbeing approach to the use of drugs. We have known this for decades—for decades, while people have suffered, while people who have required support from our health system have been shamed and punished instead. Our criminal justice system has not provided an effective and compassionate method of caring for people with substance use issues. In fact, we know that fear of punitive sanction drives people underground and can tragically lead to people overdosing and suffering for years without help because of a fear of retribution. We need to build a health service system in which drug use is destigmatised and anyone who wants support can get it.

This report condones this nation-leading and life-saving policy shift. We are calling on the government to support the decriminalisation of possession, with a number of important, progressive amendments to the bill that is before us. We are calling on the government to support community-based models of harm reduction, and we are calling on the government to work in collaboration with the drug and alcohol sector to significantly expand their remit and capacity across a range of rehabilitation and support services.

Over the last six months, it has been my privilege to have learnt from harm reduction experts about the impact of the criminalisation of drug use on individuals, their families and our community. Reducing the harm of drugs is a policy area which the Greens across the country have been vehemently advocating for decades.

I would like to thank Australian Greens former leader Dr Richard Di Natale in particular, who is a passionate advocate for issues of drug harm reduction. During his time in parliament, Richard got the nation talking about pill testing, the use of medicinal marijuana and the need for safe injecting rooms. I would also like to shout out to my colleague in the NSW state parliament, Ms Cate Faerhmann, who is, simultaneously to us, advocating for decriminalisation. Minister Rattenbury has led the charge here in the ACT, seeing through the pilot pill-testing trials and successfully advocating for the upcoming pilot of the pill-testing site that was funded in the last budget. The ACT Greens went to the last election with the most significant and detailed harm reduction policy ever put before the ACT electorate. We promised to take a health approach to the use of drugs. This is a promise that I am proud to continue to deliver on today.

I am someone who has loved someone who has suffered from substance abuse. That experience has burdened me personally to such a degree that the Greens’ positions on drug law reform have long been personally challenging. While I am incredibly proud of my membership of the Greens, nobody can be expected to be in lock step with their

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