Lawyers urge decriminalisation of cannabis use in Victoria

Cannabis use in Victoria should be decriminalised and regulated to minimise harm to users, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Currently the criminal justice system carries the major burden of drug policy in Victoria, and it has been clear for many years that this punitive approach to managing the issue is simply not working,” said Mr Jeremy King, Victorian state president, ALA.

“Decriminalising drug use will change the policy and funding focus from law enforcement to the broader health and social issues associated with the harmful use of drugs.

“Evidence from around the world shows that decriminalising or legalising cannabis does not increase use, but instead allows diversion and rehabilitation policies to be put in place that produce better outcomes for users.”

In a submission to the Victorian Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into the use of cannabis in Victoria, the ALA said that the social problems that arise from illicit drug consumption, including financial hardship and the development of mental illness such as depression, are not adequately addressed through the criminal justice system.

“Jailing and fining people with addiction does not resolve the core issues. Addiction programs in prisons are ‘one size fits all’ and often have long waiting lists. The use of drugs and drug dependence must be treated as a health issue, rather than primarily a criminal issue.

“Problematic drug use is more likely to arise amongst people who are disadvantaged and have other issues such as lack of education, employment or housing or are experiencing mental illness. Prosecuting such people in criminal proceedings is likely to exacerbate these issues and will not address the underlying health and social issue.

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