Proposed legislation launched today by the Tasmanian Greens to decriminalise personal drug use is an important step towards reducing the harm caused by drugs in our community, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).
“We need to decriminalise and regulate drug use in Tasmania to save lives,” said ALA state president, Rowena Macdonald. “Decriminalising the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use will free up countless resources within our police force which can then be directed towards drug traffickers.
“Often suffering from mental health issues and trapped in a destructive cycle, regular drug users are not criminals but they do need help and support.
“This Bill decriminalises, it does not legalise. Decriminalisation does not make drugs legal instead it means individuals get health support rather than a criminal record.
“Decriminalisation will allow problematic drug users to seek treatment and support without the fear of punishment. The expert advice tells us that a health focused, harm reduction approach to drug laws delivers the best outcome for people using drugs.”
The Decriminalising Personal Drug Use Bill 2023 launched by the Greens today is similar to the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Bill Amendment which was passed in the ACT in October 2022 and will take effect in October 2023.
“It is time to tackle the health and social issues underpinning drug dependence in Tasmania,” said Rowena. “We know that the ‘just say no’ and threat of criminal sanctions has zero impact on demand for drugs and drug use.
“If we want to defeat the drug barons – the black market profiteers that destroy lives for untaxed profit – then we need to start focusing on a genuine model of harm minimisation and this legislation is a step in the right direction.
“With the right laws in place we can begin to shut down the black market while at the same time protecting our police force and our courts from the burden of persecuting those who need health intervention not prosecution.
“There is evidence available from around the world that shows we can safely reform our approach to drug use and possession. In fact, the quicker we move from the current emphasis on law enforcement to a focus on the broader health and social issues associated with the harmful use of drugs, the more lives that can be saved.”