The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today made a submission to the Inquiry into the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Bill 2021 (the Bill). The Bill aims to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.
Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO said: “The development of this Bill is an opportunity for the ACT to demonstrate leadership in drug policy and harm reduction and position itself as a world leading jurisdiction.
“For people who do struggle with dependency, the stigma created by current legislation is a barrier to seeking help.
“People who already experience marginalisation and discrimination, including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, people who are experiencing homelessness and people with mental health issues are particularly impacted by the criminalisation of drug use.
“Too often they find themselves caught up in the justice system rather than offered appropriate medical treatment.
“And policing, prosecuting and incarcerating people for drug possession or consumption is prohibitively expensive,” said Dr Campbell.
In its submission, ACTCOSS highlighted the need for additional investment in the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) sector to support those seeking treatment.
Dr Campbell said: “If we move from a model of punishment to one of treatment, we will need further investment in the AOD sector.
“The Alcohol Tobacco & Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA) has highlighted the exceptional performance of the ACT’s AOD sector despite the lack of funding: 75% of people receiving services reporting reduced substance use, 81% noting improved general health and 73% improved mental health, as well as 80% reporting reduced involvement in crime.
“This is a sector providing tangible outcomes, but it cannot continue its work without adequate resourcing.
“Our submission also underscores the need for a Community Controlled Aboriginal residential rehabilitation facility in the ACT. This was a commitment in the election platforms of both ACT Greens and ACT Labor. Now we need to see action to turn it from commitment to reality.
“ACTCOSS welcomes the Bill as an evidence-based piece of legislation that has the potential to improve the lives of consumers as well as their friends, families and the broader community,” Dr Campbell concluded.