Various: NSW Cabinet floating of ‘decriminalising’ drugs

2GB: Police Minister expresses complete confidence in Premier over drug policy

AUDIO, 4 December:

The NSW Police Minister has complete confidence in the Premier as cabinet considers a three-strike drug possession policy that would apply only to young offenders.

The three strike system would mean anyone caught with substances for personal use would receive a warning for the first offence and then fines for two subsequent offences.

A criminal conviction would be recorded on the fourth offence.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott told Ben Fordham ice is a deadly drug.

“I’ve got 100 per cent confidence that the Premier will certainly land this exactly where it needs to go.ADVERTISING

“Nobody wants to see kids unnecessarily involved in the criminal justice system.

“But we’ve also got to make sure that the message is well and truly out there that whether you take ice once or four times, it’s going to kill you.”

2GB: Health Minister refuses to follow colleagues in drug decriminalisation debate


NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has had a heated exchange with Jim Wilson, repeatedly refusing to comment on illicit drug reform.

Mr Hazzard maintained his silence on reports the government may introduce new changes that would allow people found with small quantities of an illicit substance to be let off with a warning.

“Look, I’m not going to answer questions – I’ve said a few times today – I will not talk about and never have talked.

“[In] my ten years as a minister, I never talked about anything discussed in cabinet.”

Jim pointed out other cabinet ministers have commented about decriminalising illicit drugs, including David Elliot, John Barilaro, and Gladys Berejiklian.ADVERTISING

“Jim I’m not going to be drawn on it, I’m a member of the cabinet but I’m one of the members of cabinet who don’t talk about cabinet discussions.

“Jim, Jim, Jim – I will not be drawn on it; I’ve made my position clear.

“Obviously drugs are dangerous, but on the discussion that is currently taking place before the cabinet; no I won’t comment, I will not.”

‘We can’t go soft on crime, Cate!’: Jim Wilson fires up at Greens legislator


Jim Wilson has blown up in a fiery debate with a NSW Greens legislator over a divisive drug reform tabled by the NSW government.

Greens legislator Cate Faehrmann, a proponent of drug decriminalisation, has welcomed the proposed reform, telling Jim Wilson the changes would save lives.

Criminalisation has not prevented uptake of drug consumption she argued, saying in 2019, 26 per cent of the NSW population had taken cocaine.

“This is extraordinary, drug use is going up, meanwhile our drug laws are getting tougher.

“We’re wasting money, meanwhile people are dying not seeking treatment.”

Jim retaliated, arguing the three-strikes proposal makes no sense as a preventative strategy.

“It’s putting police in a compromised position …  because you’re saying to a drug-taker … that it’s okay to take it.

“We can’t go soft on crime, Cate!”

“[Criminalisation] is killing people, Jim!” she rebuffed.

Tony Wood lost his daughter Anna at the age of 15 after she took a single ecstasy tablet, and is in disbelief that the government would even consider moving towards decriminalisation.

He told Jim Wilson he’s concerned overseas drug dealers have stockpiled during the pandemic, soon to unleash a surge of illicit drugs into the market.

“Why are drugs illegal? Because they’re bloody dangerous, that’s why!

“I feel sorry for the Premier. I think she’s under a lot of pressure put on her by these people … who have no idea and no bloody brains.”

2GB: ‘Game over’: Ben Fordham warns NSW Premier’s future lies with this radical decision


Ben Fordham says Gladys Berejiklian is putting it all on the line if she signs off on a plan to radically change the state’s approach on drugs. 

The government is considering a softer policy for people caught carrying the drug ice after an inquiry into its use.

The three strike system would mean anyone caught with substances for personal use would receive a warning for the first offence and then fines for two subsequent offences.

A criminal conviction would be recorded on the fourth time.

The NSW Premier insists nothing has been confirmed but Ben Fordham says “police are filthy about this”.

“I can tell you there’s a major blow-up brewing.

“If [Gladys] signs off on this policy that allows people to carry ice she’ll be finished, it will be game over.”

10 News

The Premier is adamant she’s not going soft on drugs — as those caught with small amounts look set to benefit from a three-strike system. | @alicemhogg 

An inquiry has called for the NSW Government to decriminalise drug use in the state. However, it looks like the State Government could opt for a ‘depenalisation’ model — here’s what that means.

SMH: ‘No strategy’: Drug possession compromise on the table to end bitter cabinet division

A three-strike drug possession policy would only apply to young offenders under a compromise position floated by ministers opposed to broader reform to end a cabinet stand-off within the NSW government.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian was on Thursday forced to hose down suggestions her government was considering decriminalising the possession of illicit drugs after a cabinet disagreement spilled out into the public.

The drug possession changes form part of the government’s response to a special commission into the drug ice which was released earlier this year, and include a potential three-strike policy for people caught with illegal substances.

The proposal would see drug users handed penalty infringement notices the first three times they are caught with drugs, before criminal penalties kick in on their fourth offence.Advertisement

Aspects of the government response were debated at length on Monday night, with the issue set down to be revisited at the next cabinet meeting on December 14. However, details of the confidential discussions were leaked to media on Wednesday evening, prompting a heated public debate over drug laws on Thursday.

Ms Berejiklian repeatedly denied reports that cabinet had given indicative support for decriminalising the possession of illicit drugs.

“We will not be decriminalising drugs in NSW. I don’t support it, my government will not be going down that path. And I can’t be clearer than that.”

She said the community need only recall her government’s stance on pill testing at music festivals to know that she would never support decriminalising drugs.

A government minister and opponent to the wider drug reforms said they and others wanted to see an age limit imposed on any easing of restrictions on drug possession penalties.

The Premier indicated on Thursday morning her government could be willing to support changes in the law for children.

“I think for children, I think for young people, there’s options there.” VideoPlay video2:27NSW will not decriminalise drugs: Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says NSW will not be decriminalising illegal drugs despite reports.

Police Minister David Elliott and Nationals leader John Barilaro took to the airwaves on Thursday morning, objecting to any plan that would water down the state’s drug laws.

But supporters of the original position suggest the government doesn’t need to compromise because “it’s already moderate”.

“We’re not decriminalising drugs. If they’re peddling drugs then game on,” a minister said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

They said the Attorney-General had been politically naive about the plan, and should have seen an attack coming.

“The fact they had no strategy and didn’t see this coming annoys me,” they said.

Others said the past 24 hours may have muddied the waters enough to prompt the Premier to wind back the government’s response to the ice inquiry in order to allay community concern NSW was going “soft on drugs”.

A senior Liberal said the cabinet leak had damaged any chance for a productive debate in two weeks time and blamed two figures for “putting a gun to government process”.

“It’s now become a reactive issue when it should have been proactive where we took the community with us and explained the facts,” they said.

Another senior minister said the debate over the issue in cabinet was no different to any other policy debate, but one person in particular was “determined to look like a hero”.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said existing drug laws were plain and simple.

“We certainly don’t condone or allow any scope for people to take, carry or supply illicit drugs,” he said.

“Having said that, we’ve also seen through a number of programs that we’ve had over the last few years that diversions from the criminal justice system have worked for certain people, particularly young people.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard would not be drawn on the issue on Thursday, saying cabinet discussions should always be held in confidence.

“The government’s doing all it can to do an appropriate response we always said we would have it done before the end of the year and of course our government will do what we said we’d do,” he said.

The number of people appearing before court on drug possession charges has increased by 73 per cent between 2010 and 2019.

In 2019, 97 per cent of people found guilty of drug possession were either dealt with in a lower court after pleading guilty or convicted without appearing at court. More than half of the penalties recorded were fines.

The Australian: Revolt to trigger retreat on NSW drug laws

A controversial NSW government proposal to keep drug users out of court with warning and ­infringement notices is almost certain to be watered down, with Coalition MPs in uproar over the measure and Gladys Berejiklian urging a redraft of the plan to avoid a partyroom backlash.

Cabinet figures told The Australian that the policy, discussed in cabinet on Monday, was ­unlikely to survive in its current form due to broad opposition across the Coalition‘s conservative and moderate factions.

Several MPs have also questioned the timing of the proposal, given it was raised after parliament ended for the year, close to Christmas, and with no scheduled partyroom meetings until the new year.

Submitted by Attorney-General Mark Speakman, the policy would create a three-strikes rule for drug possession — the first offence just a warning, the second two fines.

The proposal is part of the government’s broader response to a 2018 special commission of inquiry which examined the ­social harms caused by crystal methamphetamine.

The inquiry’s report was released in February and made 109 recommendations, five of which — including increasing medically supervised injecting rooms and ceasing the use of drug dogs — were immediately ruled out.

A response to the other recommendations is expected to be delivered by the end of the year,

Supporters of Mr Speakman’s proposal, including former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC, say the plan would have a number of benefits and would stop less significant drug matters clogging up court lists.

But numerous Coalition MPs who spoke to The Australian on Thursday on condition of anonymity said they were weighing up options to escalate their dissatisfaction with the plan, including holding an extraordinary partyroom meeting if the proposal survives a cabinet vote in two weeks.

Others said they would cross the floor of parliament if it was ever drafted into legislation.

The Premier on Thursday said her government would not decriminalise drugs. “Drugs are a scourge on our community. We will not be decriminalising drugs in NSW. I cannot be clearer than that,” she said.

Officials familiar with the cabinet discussions on Monday said Ms Berejiklian took no formal position but sought views from around the table.

She then deferred the matter to December 14, telling Mr Speakman and Health Minister Brad Hazzard, joint sponsors of the proposal, to revise the policy.

“It was the view of the Premier that more work needed to be done as to how we sell the policy as one we could live with … I’m not sure it will ever get to that point.”

Within cabinet, the policy was supported by some but opposed by the majority of ministers, said the official familiar with the discussion. “A lot of people spoke against it,” they said, adding that there were concerns that some people would use the leniency of the policy to “game the system”.

“It should have been dealt with months ago when we were all in parliament,” said one Liberal MP.

“To bring it on just before Christmas — people are just irate. It’s a massive shift from our party and our base — we’ve never been the party of decriminalising drugs. People are prepared to cross the floor.”

The special commission of ­inquiry, led by Dan Howard SC, recommended a significant ­reframing of the state’s approach to treating and policing illicit substances, including decriminalising their possession and use.

Mr Cowdery, a member of the inquiry’s expert panel, said he would back the government’s proposal as a modest step towards decriminalisation, which he supports. Mr Cowdery said this change in tactic required a “mental shift” on how we view the use of drugs, namely that it forms a routine part of life for a large number of people.

“All the other states and territories have schemes that are very similar to this sort of idea,” Mr Cowdery said. “What we have to do is put in place policies that address the harms that may come from that. What we need are policies that do not increase the harm by putting criminal sanctions on top of the harms already caused.”

NSW effectively decriminalised cannabis possession in 2000 through its Cannabis Cautioning Scheme, which gave police the discretion to issue warnings ­rather than charges if people were caught with small amounts of the drug.

In 2018 this was expanded for music festivals, allowing for penalty infringement notices to be ­issued to revellers carrying small amounts of any drug.

The Guardian: Politicians must find their nerve on sensible drug reform in Australia – not give in to moral panic

By Will Tregoning of Unharm

Reports the NSW government was considering removing penalties for personal drug use were met with the usual backlash

On Wednesday night, Channel Seven news reported Gladys Berejiklian’s government was considering “decriminalising” drug use in New South Wales, following a leak from cabinet.

By Thursday morning the usual moral panic had set in. “Bunch of dopes” screamed the front page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. The deputy premier, John Barilaro, was on 2GB reassuring the ageing talkback demographic that the government would not go “soft on crime”. The premier swiftly ruled out decriminalisation, saying the government would maintain its “tough stance”.

And it wasn’t just the Liberal party fuelling the panic. The former Labor premier Kristina Keneally said she was “highly concerned” and recommended that the NSW government “slow down and listen to some experts.”

That off-the-cuff remark is ironic when the experts are already clear: decriminalisation makes sense.

What the NSW government was reportedly considering was not even the full decriminalisation of illegal drugs, but rather a ‘three strikes’ scheme where warnings and fines would be used prior to a person being charged for drug possession.

It’s a step that professor and senior counsel Dan Howard has encouraged the government to make in his comprehensive 1,000+page report from last year’s special inquiry into ice and drug use. He listened to communities and experts right across the state.

Howard’s recommendations included eliminating the offence of using and possessing prohibited drugs, and improving referrals into health and social services. Repeated social surveys with Australians have shown high levels of support for that sensible approach.

The government was reportedly considering something far less than that, but it would have been a step in the right direction if they’d held their nerve.

Criminalisation does not, on the whole, prevent people from taking drugs. But it does prevent the open and honest conversations that we need to have to manage drug use well. Removing the stigma of criminality opens up a space for a fresh conversation and a rational approach.

And a rational approach includes asking why we are saddling people with criminal records and even jailing them for taking drugs. NSW police even set targets for their officers to search more than 200,000 people across the state each year. Those targets aren’t popular with frontline officers, and they waste time that would be better spent on violent crime.

Part of a rational shift in drug policy is changing those police key performance indicators and freeing police up to focus on other issues, including the epidemic of domestic violence, which is one of the real blights on our society.

This is also imperative given our current approach to drugs disproportionately affects people of colour, and those who are young and poor.

A wealthy person in their 40s who uses cocaine and cannabis every now and then (while stockpiling a legal drug – fine wines – in their home) generally doesn’t have to worry about criminalisation or the threat of arrest – at least until their kids start attending music festivals.

At the heart of politics as usual when it comes to drug use is the fear of being seen to ‘normalise’ drugs. To basically admit something that cuts right to the heart of the issue. Drug use already is normal, and the difference between illegal and legal drugs is often based on politics, not on science or common sense.

Decriminalisation doesn’t mean a drug-use free-for-all. The reality is that prohibited drug use is also already normalised in the sense that most people who use prohibited drugs live otherwise normal lives. All sorts of different people, from politicians to tradies, use drugs. Drug use can be managed and managed well.

Of course, all the frantic backpedalling in NSW on any suggestion that a mainstream political party would ever consider decriminalising drugs may ultimately boil down to semantics. Hopefully, serious consideration is being given to removing criminal penalties for possessing drugs for personal use under another name.

But which ever way the government and the opposition want to spin the current conversation, the fact remains that until we are mature enough to have an honest conversation about drugs in Australia the least privileged in our society will continue to bear the cost.

Junkee: Labor’s Kristina Keneally Is, For Some Reason, Against New Proposals To Change NSW Drug Laws

Once again a politician has shown off their impressive compartmentalisation skills by imploring people to listen to experts, while in the next breath advocating for the opposite of what those experts have been telling us all.ADVERTISING

For once no, I’m not referring to climate change — I’m referring to the decriminalisation of drugs, and the debate currently taking place in NSW.

Last year NSW held an inquiry into crystal meth and other amphetamines, hearing months of evidence from health and legal experts, as well as people whose lives have been affected by the drug.

One of the recommendations from that inquiry was for it to be decriminalised — and considering Gladys won’t even agree to a simple pill test at a music festival, that would be a pretty wild policy shift.

The government has emphatically shut the idea down — the premier today said her government “will not be going down that path“, while a spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s office also said the government “does not plan to decriminalise possession of illicit drugs“.

It’s a case of semantics, really — their comments were in response to widespread reporting that NSW’s cabinet was considering decriminalising small quantities of drugs and introducing a three strikes policy. The finer details of the plan are actually more of a “depenalisation”, but the end result would see people caught with small amounts of drugs get a warning and then two fines, before receiving a criminal conviction for a fourth offence.

This morning Labor Leader Kristina Keneally was asked about the idea on 2GB radio.

“I’m not a health expert and it’s been a while since I’ve been in charge of the New South Wales police force, but I really think we need to listen to some experts here,” she said.

“And I’m not yet convinced that what I see on the front page of the Tele is the right way forward.”

“I am highly concerned about the decriminalisation of drugs in countries overseas, and the message it sends to young people, particularly on developing brains, and the use of drugs like marijuana on an adolescent brain. So, I would strongly urge the cabinet to slow down and listen to some experts.”

If you are interested in the opinion of experts, you could always check out the inquiry’s report, which recognised that the criminalisation of low-level personal drug use can lead to “extensive harms”.

“Contact with the criminal justice system, including having a criminal conviction for simple possession, is directly associated with adverse impacts on employment, earning prospects, access to housing, access to treatment, relationships and wellbeing. The criminalisation of simple possession is a powerful source of stigma, which has a serious impact on the physical and mental health of people who use drugs, as well as their willingness to seek help,” it reads.

“A public health approach that creates an inclusive environment to support treatment would be a better model than the current criminal law approach.”

The proposal is expected to return to cabinet on December 14, so stay tuned for more.

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