SMH: Decriminalisation ruled out as government considers early drug intervention
The NSW government has ruled out decriminalising the possession of illicit drugs as part of its response to last year’s special commission of inquiry into ice.
The inquiry heard months of harrowing evidence from health and judicial experts, families and communities affected by crystal methamphetamine and other amphetamine-type stimulants across NSW.
Among the 109 recommendations the inquiry made to the government was a model for the decriminalisation of the use and possession for personal use of prohibited drugs.
A cabinet leak late on Wednesday, reported by Channel 7, said the government’s response to the inquiry would see a dramatic policy shift that would decriminalise the possession of small quantities of drugs and replace it with a new “three chance” system.
That policy would mean anyone caught with substances for personal use would receive a warning for the first offence and then fines for two subsequent offences before a criminal conviction was recorded.
A spokesman for the Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the government was still considering its response to the ice inquiry, “however it does not plan to decriminalise possession of illicit drugs”.
A minister, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said cabinet had reached a position on its response to the report, which was focused on early intervention and diverting people from a life of crime.
“This is about keeping people out of court who should never be in court who also tie up the justice system. It’s to divert people from a life of crime and recidivism,” they said.
The four-volume report containing the findings of the inquiry was handed to the government in January, including 109 recommendations to government.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard indicated in February the government would consider 104 of the recommendations, ruling out additional injecting centres, ceasing to use drug detection dogs and introducing syringe programs in correctional centres.
The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’ was delivered to the Berejiklian government by commissioner Professor Dan Howard on January 28, with the government expected to hand down its response to the report before the end of the year.
Greens MP David Shoebridge described the potential reforms as “modest” and far from full decriminalisation, but said they would reduce unnecessary policing of minor drug offences
“This is a victory for common sense, a win for young people who don’t want to be monstered just for being young and ultimately a win for police who can divert these resources to fighting serious crime,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“This will not end the government’s unwinnable war on drugs but it will lead to an important rebalancing of powers between police and civil rights.”
Tele: NSW cabinet split over plan to let drug users escape penalties
NSW cabinet has broadly agreed to a plan which would effectively decriminalise small quantities of illicit drugs. Here’s how it would work.
NSW cabinet is drastically split over a proposal to let drug takers escape penalties for personal use, with a “heartbroken” Police Minister David Elliott going so far as to beg his colleagues to walk away from the plan.
Cabinet broadly agreed to a proposal brought by Attorney-General Mark Speakman on Monday night, which would effectively decriminalise small quantities of all illicit drugs — although the AG himself objects to the use of that terminology.
Under the proposal, it is understood drug users would be first given warnings and unenforceable infringement notices before facing criminal penalties on their fourth offence.
A NSW Government spokesman last night said: “the NSW Government is still considering its response to the Ice Inquiry, however it does not plan to decriminalise possession of illicit drugs”.
However, Ministers and MPs opposing the plan accused the Attorney-General of relying on “semantics” to go “soft on drugs”.
Mr Speakman’s plan, which was co-supported by Moderate Gareth Ward, sparked horror from conservative Ministers and the Nationals, who believed the policy would give the appearance of the being soft on crime.
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The Daily Telegraph has confirmed with several cabinet Ministers that Mr Speakman pitched the idea to his colleagues as a money saver, by unclogging the courts. “It should have been badged a treasury submission, not a cabinet submission,” one said.
Multiple Ministers confirmed Mr Elliott spoke at length in the cabinet meeting, begging his colleagues to abandon the idea. One said he was “heartbroken”.
He said words to the effect of “setting aside the fact I’m a father, it’s bad policy”.
Mr Elliott told colleagues it would hurt the police, and anger the government’s voter base including in Western Sydney and in the bush.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro led Nationals’ fury at the plan, questioning how it would translate in ice-riddled communities while giving the government the appearance of being soft on criminal activity.
Conservative Finance Minister Damien Tudehope spoke out, as did Nationals Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor. A number of ministers told The Telegraph said the policy would not pass the party room.
As news of the plan broke last night on Seven News, multiple backbenchers were ringing ministers to complain, paving the way for a messy government ideological split.
One said “Mark Speakman should lose his job over this”.
It has shades of another deeply divisive debate after abortion legislation plagued the government in 2019.
In selling the plan to his colleagues, Mr Speakman said “it is not legalising drugs, it’s not decriminalising drugs, it’s not normalising drugs”, saying it was purely a method to unclog the courts.
A majority of the members of cabinet backed the plan, which will return to Cabinet on December 14 before going to party room next year.
Dad’s outrage at new plan
The father of drug overdose victim Anna Wood has condemned the push to effectively decriminalise drug use and possession in NSW.
“I’m really, really angry, we need to be protecting our kids and teaching them drug use is not an option,” Mr Wood, who lost his 15-year-old daughter when she overdosed on a single ecstasy tablet in 1995, told The Daily Telegraph.
“We can’t be encouraging it and telling them they’ll get three tries before they’re punished … (cabinet’s) stepping on Anna’s grave.”
Mr Wood, from Collaroy, has spent 25 years campaigning against illegal drug use and said he “couldn’t believe” state cabinet could consider legalising drugs, including the MDMA which killed his little girl.
He said the government’s push to go soft on drug possession was an “insult” to his daughter’s memory.
“We need to get tougher, not just give up,” he said.
“We need to prioritise the health of our kids.”
Pedestrian.tv: The NSW Government Might Finally Decriminalise Drug Possession And Instead Give Out Warnings
News.com: NSW looking at a warning and fine based system for personal illegal drug possession
Greens Media Release:
Govt Move on Drugs is a Game-Changer: Greens
Breaking news that the NSW Government will move away from its heavy-handed approach to
personal drug use and towards a warning and fines based system for people caught with a
personal quantity of illegal drugs is a game-changer, according to the Greens.
As reported by Channel 7 news, the Government’s proposed “three chance policy” would see
those caught with personal quantities of illicit drugs initially given a warning, issued a fine on the
2nd and 3rd instance with criminal penalties reserved for those caught 4 times or more.
“This is a game changer and the beginning of drug use being treated as a health issue rather
than a criminal one here in NSW,” said Cate Faehrmann Greens MP and Drug Law Reform
“Young people have been harassed for too long in NSW for simply doing something that almost
half of us have done in our lifetimes, and that is use an illegal drug. With one in six Australian
adults having used an illicit drug in the past year, it’s clear that the war on drugs has failed.
“Across the world we are seeing the dominoes fall. All eight drug law reform ballots in the recent
United States election passed, including full decriminalisation in Oregon.
“Along with these changes, it’s important that resources spent on policing are now diverted to
drug rehabilitation and harm reduction services,” said Ms Faehrmann.
“This is a victory for common sense, a win for young people who don’t want to be monstered
just for being young and ultimately a win for police who can divert these resources to fighting
serious crime,” said David Shoebridge Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson
“These are modest changes, far from full decriminalisation, but if they do become law they will
reduce unnecessary and aggressive policing of minor drug offences.
“This will not end the government’s unwinnable war on drugs but it will lead to an important
rebalancing of powers between police and civil rights,” Mr Shoebridge said.
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