An expert group will consider a possible trial to change how illicit drug use is policed in Victoria, despite the state government rejecting a decriminalisation push.
Reason Party Leader Fiona Patten introduced a bill late last month to decriminalise illicit drug use and possession, shifting the focus from punishment to treatment.
Under her proposal, police would issue a mandatory notice and referral of drug education or treatment to those found to have used or possessed an illicit drug.
If they comply, there will be no finding of guilt and no criminal offence recorded.
The bill is set to be defeated when it is next debated in parliament, with both the Victorian government and opposition flagging their intention to vote it down.
However, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes on Wednesday offered a concession to investigate future reforms.
"The government will convene a working group with police, health professionals, addiction specialists amongst others to give advice to the minister for health and the minister for police on possible infringement trial options," she told parliament.
"There is no location for any potential trial."
Illicit drugs won't become legal under a potential trial and would instead result in treatment notices being handed to users.
A similar working group was formed in 2020 to look at ways to assess medicinal cannabis patients' fitness to drive.
When its report was released last July, the Andrews government said it would consider the findings and fund three research projects.
Parliamentary Budget Office costings of Ms Patten's decriminalisation proposal, seen by AAP, indicate it would save the state $133 million due to reduced drug enforcement activity in courts and prisons from 2021/22 to 2031/32.
That would be partially offset by a $52.9 million fall in drug-related fines revenue, leaving the budget $80.1 million better off over the 10-year span.
Drug use is estimated to cost Victoria $8.2 billion a year in policing, court, prison, health and rehabilitation impacts as well as lost income, as per Victoria Police's 2020/25 drug strategy.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the economics of the state's drugs laws weren't the only factor to consider.
"There are many things that would save money, whether they are good things to do or not is another thing," he told reporters.
"I'm not here to make any announcements about reforming the way the law relates to illicit drugs."
Ahead of the bill's impending defeat, Ms Patten said it wasn't the end of her campaign.
"This bill starts that conversation around treating the use of drugs differently - seeing it as a health issue, not one that should be stigmatised or criminalised," she said in a video posted to her social media account.
Australian Associated Press