ACT News


Shane Rattenbury calls for drug decriminalisation after release of report

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury has come out in support of a new report released this week recommending the decriminalisation of drugs in Australia.

Released by the group Australia 21, which includes a former supreme court judge and four former police commissioners, the report made 13 recommendations calling for widespread reforms to existing drug laws.

Among the reforms were replacing the black market with a regulated "white" market, removing criminal offences for drug possession and allowing testing for drugs such as MDMA.

Mr Rattenbury said a harm minimisation approach to drug laws should be adopted across the ACT.

"This is a powerful and important report. We would be foolish to ignore a call for change endorsed by former police commissioners, former heads of Corrective Services ... and former senior politicians from both sides of politics," he said.

"The law and order approach to drug use is not working, and people are dying because of it."


The Australia 21 report was launched earlier this week by former NSW Premier Bob Carr and former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett.

The endorsement of the report by the ACT Greens follows the party lobbying Labor to implement pill testing to stop accidental overdoses at music festivals.

"I regret to say that I think the ACT is at risk of losing its way," Mr Rattenbury said.

"We had been known as a progressive jurisdiction, a jurisdiction that was at the forefront of drugs policy and led the way on issues such as supervised injecting rooms, because that was the best way to get health outcomes, regardless of the controversy."

Co-editor of the Australia 21 report and president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation Alex Wodak said the current approach to drug laws had failed, and that access should be gradually regulated as a path to decriminalisation.

"We're not going to end up with one kilogram bricks of pure heroin and ice sold at supermarket checkouts," he said.

"We've been following the same approach for the last half century, and in that time the drug market has continued to get bigger and more dangerous.

"We cannot arrest and imprison our way out of our problems ... and ultimately we have to find some kind of compromise."

ACT Police figures show 168 arrests were made in Canberra for drug-related offences in 2016, with 130 of those for drug possession.

If a person is arrested in the ACT for drug possession, they can be referred to the Drug Diversion Program.

While cannabis is already decriminalised in the ACT, those caught with less than 50 grams can be issued with a Simple Cannabis Offence Notice, which can see a person avoid a criminal record if a fine is paid within 60 days.

Mr Wodak said he hoped for the recommendations outlined in the Australia 21 report to be gradually introduced by 2030.