A bill by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson to decriminalise illicit drugs is set to be proposed to the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2021. 

According to the ABC, the Australian Capital Territory could be the first state or territory in Australia to decriminalise the use of certain illicit drugs – including heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamines such as ice.

Labor member of the Lower House Assembly, Michael Pettersson is preparing to introduce a bill into parliament next year that will hope to help the current drug use problem in Canberra. He explained the move by saying that current measures aren’t working, and prosecuting members of the community for usage of small amounts of currently illegal drugs isn’t the answer.

He said, “We’ve had laws of prohibition in place for about 100 years. In that 100 years, somehow, 43 per cent of Australians have used an illicit substance [including cannabis],” he said.

“That tells me that the criminal justice system isn’t the deterrent we think it is.

“If someone is using drugs, the best way to get them to stop is to sit them down with a doctor.”

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Mr Pettersson cited the finding from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which was released in July, suggesting that popular opinion was already in favour of decriminalising possession of certain drugs – according to the ABC “20 per cent of people supported a prison sentence or community service for someone found to possess MDMA, and about a quarter of people supported prison or community service for someone caught in possession of heroin.”

In January 2020, the ACT became the first state or territory to legalise the personal use of cannabis, allowing possession of up to 50 grams per person, and up to four plants per household.

Fun fact for New South Wales residents: Jervis Bay falls under ACT laws and governance, even though it is geographically a part of NSW.

The bill has been met with tempered enthusiasm from both side of Parliament, with debate expected to kick off in 2021 when sitting in Canberra resumes.

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