The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today gave evidence to the ACT Legislative Assembly’s Select Committee on the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Bill 2021.
The Bill, aimed at decriminalising small amounts of certain drugs for personal use, will help ensure people who use drugs access appropriate healthcare and supports rather than ending up in the criminal justice system.
In its evidence to the Committee, ACTCOSS highlighted the significant positive impact the passing of this legislation would have on some of the most disadvantaged people in Canberra.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “We strongly support the passing of this Bill and believe that when coupled with adequate funding for the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector it will change people’s lives.
“People who experience social disadvantage are more likely to have their drug use criminalised, rather than treated as a matter of public health. Indeed, many users of drugs suffer greater harm because of discriminatory engagement with the justice and healthcare systems than from drug use itself.
“Decriminalisation will dramatically reduce harm from drug use by diverting people away from the criminal justice system. It will also reduce the stigma attached to drug use and encourage people to seek treatment services when they need them.
“The AOD sector needs to be adequately resourced to meet this need as it arises. We estimate that capacity must at least double to meet current demand.
“For those that can access AOD treatment in the ACT, we know that these treatments work well and produce good outcomes for individuals, their families and the broader Canberra community.
“We commend the Committee for taking the time to consult with the community sector, who are overwhelmingly in favour of passing this legislation to protect the most disadvantaged people in the ACT,” said Dr Campbell.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.