Canberrans will be able to possess small amounts of certain illicit drugs without facing the prospect of jail time or a criminal record from next year.
The ACT Legislative Assembly passed drug decriminalisation laws, which would allow people to possess drugs including cocaine, ice and heroin.
The laws will come into effect in 12 months to allow for police training and administrative changes.
Under the proposed legislation, people could receive a $100 fine or be sent to a drug diversion program if they are caught with drugs within an allowable amount.
The bill, put forward by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, passed the territory's parliament with support from Labor and Greens members. The Canberra Liberals voted against the bill.
There was a series of amendments to the bill that were debated in the chamber.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith moved the bulk of the amendments, including changes to the possession limits for drugs.
Under the laws, the possession limit for cocaine, amphetamines and ice will be 1.5 grams. The limit for ecstasy will be 1.5 grams or five doses and there will also be a five-dose limit for LSD. The limit for heroin will be 1 gram.
The possession limits were revised down from the original bill for all drugs besides ecstasy after ACT Policing raised concerns the limits could enable drug trafficking as they were too high.
She also moved an amendment to allow for the year-long implementation.
"[This gives] us 12 months to work with police to ensure they are ready for this reform and also to work with the community to understand exactly what is happening here," Ms Stephen-Smith.
"All we are doing is ensuring that those people who have a small amount of drugs in their possession for personal use are treated with a health response not a criminal one."
The opposition sought to delay the start of the bill until 2024. Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said the policy was not taken to the 2020 election and, therefore, did not have a mandate.
He said the Canberra Liberals would overturn the laws if elected at the 2024 territory election.
"This is a radical change to our drug laws. What we're going to see is increased amounts of meth and heroin use in our community," Mr Hanson said.
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Mr Hanson was also critical that the government suspended standing orders on Thursday to debate the bill as it was not in the official schedule for the sitting day.
ACT Greens' member for Brindabella Johnathan Davis moved amendments to remove the $100 fine for drug possession. This was not supported by Labor.
Mr Davis said the party believed the $100 fine would disproportionately affect low-income earners.
"If you are meeting with law enforcement in real time in small possession of drugs and you are dealing with an addiction or a substance abuse issue a $100 fine will disproportionately affect you," he said.
"For some of our most marginalised and disadvantaged Canberrans $100 is the difference between eating and not eating. $100 is the difference between seeing the doctor and not seeing the doctor."
Mr Davis also sought to increase the thresholds for drugs, including allowing for up to six grams of cocaine, five grams for heroin and six grams of methamphetamine.
The bill was introduced by Mr Pettersson in early 2021. He said the passing of the bill marked an important day for the ACT.
"People that use drugs do not need to be arrested, what they need is access to appropriate health services," he said.
The bill was the subject of a lengthy parliamentary inquiry, which heard from lawyers, police, families of those affected by drugs and harm minimisation groups.
The inquiry recommended drugs decriminalisation laws should pass but there was a dissenting report submitted by the opposition committee chair Peter Cain which opposed the bill.
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