Mystery still surrounds the cost to the ACT of providing the health support services that would see a spike if a proposed bill to decriminalise possession of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine becomes law.
A select Legislative Assembly committee tasked with investigating a bill on Friday heard the territory's health directorate has not modelled the cost the new laws would have if they were passed in their current form.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said there was unlikely to be a cost to implementing the bill, but health services could see increased demand and face greater costs.
"Given the high diversion rates we already have, I think it's unlikely that there would be a significant cost element associated with that," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
ACT Health director-general Rebecca Cross said the directorate would not cost the effect of the legislation until its form was clear.
"I think it would be normal to do that when the policy parameters are clearer. There's too many unknowns in terms of how it will be implemented, whether people would have a choice of paying a fine or diversion," Ms Cross said.
Ms Cross said the modelling would need to take into account potential reduced court and justice costs if the bill was passed.
Ms Stephen-Smith said harm minimisation was the ACT government's preferred approach to managing drugs in the community.
"No one sensible is suggesting that the war on drugs was anything other than a failure and that the continuation of it is not something that this government would support," she said.
The health minister also acknowledged calls for greater assistance to providers of health and support services in the sector.
"I think there's been a recognition, certainly in ACT Labor's election commitments, and also in the ACT Greens, that there is more investment required in the alcohol and other drugs sector," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
The inquiry has repeatedly heard from families and advocacy groups that more funding will be required for health services should the legislation be passed.
Deputy chief police officer Michael Chew on Friday told the inquiry police would need access to 24-hour drug diversion programs if the bill was passed, but the possession limits posed problems for officers.
Commander Chew said new cannabis laws, which allow small amounts for personal use, had posed problems for officers, and the new bill being considered by the committee would have similar risks.
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He said in one case officers had been forced to let go a person allegedly trafficking cannabis because the total amount they had on them was below the personal limit threshold, even though it was divided into small bags.
"We then had to mount a significant police operation in the background because that person was constantly outside a school at the time, they were constantly back there allegedly dealing to the students at the school, so we had to mount a significant operation to capture the evidence to support the charge of trafficking," Commander Chew said.
Commander Chew said people would be able to cut powdered drugs of high purity with other substances, and have potentially traffickable quantities that still fell under the personal limit threshold proposed in the legislation.
ACT Policing had warned in its submission to the inquiry that the limits would inadvertently allow drug trafficking.
Commander Chew also said it was worth exploring a PACER-style program to assist with responding to drug-related incidents. PACER units combine police, paramedics and mental health nurses to respond to mental health incidents, and have driven down emergency room presentations.
"I think it's critical to the bill that all the emergency services and all the services have the ability to intervene at the earliest opportunity. At the moment, we don't have that ability at 2 o'clock in the morning in the night club precinct, or wherever we may engage people," he said.
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