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Changing Our Drug Legislation

Statement of support – NSW proposed drug law reforms

Twenty-seven legal, medical, health, community and church groups, have welcomed news that the NSW Government is considering changing the law regarding small quantities of drugs and instead introduce a diversionary system.  

This group, many of whom are members of the Fair Treatment campaign, has long-campaigned for such a move, arguing drug laws should be reformed so that drug use can be treated primarily as a health and social issue. 

We welcome a greater emphasis on diversion but this will only be effective if health and social measures have increased funding and support. 

We support these sensible measures that reflect the government is listening to the medical and legal experts and making laws based on the evidence. 

This small step brings NSW in line with other jurisdictions around Australia that have similar diversion systems. 

Too many people who use drugs are made to live in the shadows, looked down upon with shame and stigma and therefore don’t seek help because of our current drug laws. 

We believe this move by the NSW Government could allow police to be tough on crime, diverting resources to policing large drug traffickers and violent offences, where we as a society need their attention to be. We need the helping hand of treatment and support extended to those with drug dependency. 

We all want a society in which all people are valued and their dignity as human beings recognised. Parents want to know that their kids will come home from a night out and if they have drug dependency society will help keep them safe until they can get treatment. This move by the NSW government is to be applauded. 

We look forward to an ongoing dialogue about the freeing up of police resources and funding for treatment for people who seek it. 

Rev. Simon Hansford
Uniting Church NSW & ACT
Nicholas Cowdery AO QC
NSW Council of Civil Liberties
Pastor Jon Owen
Wayside Chapel
Dr Erin Lalor
Alcohol and Other Drug Foundation
Robert Stirling
Network of Alcohol and Other Drugs Agencies
Devin Bowles
Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Association ACT
Tracey Burton
Executive Director
Wil Tregonning
Greg Chipp
Drug Policy Australia
Professor Alison Ritter
Drug Policy Modelling Program UNSW
Dr Alex Wodak AM
Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation
Dr Marianne Jauncey
Medical Director
Medically Supervised Injecting Centre
Carmel Tebbutt
Mental Health Coordinating Council
Dr Tony Sara
ASMOF NSW (the Doctors Union)
Bill Bush
Families and Friends of Drug Law Reform
Nicky Bath
The National LGBTI Health Alliance
Terry Slevin
Public Health Association of Australia
Professor Carla Treloar
Centre for Social Research, Social Policy Research Centre
Professor Simon Lenton
National Drug Research Institute
Chris Gough
Executive Director
Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy
Professor Anne M Roche
National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction
Alexis Apostolellis
Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine
Dr Jake Rance
Research Fellow
Steven Drew
Hepatitis NSW
Yumi Lee
Older Women's Network NSW Inc

Decriminalisation Discussion Paper launched

Uniting has released a pivotal Decriminalisation Discussion Paper that delves deeper into options for changing the law around the possession and use of drugs.

The paper (click here to download) was prepared in collaboration with Fair Treatment partners Prof. Alison Ritter, Will Tregoning, Dr Marianne Jauncey, who formed a working group with Emma Maiden and Dr Tom McClean to explore preferred decriminalisation models.

The group spoke at a special launch for the paper in Sydney on Wednesday, against the colourful backdrop of the Art from the Heart of the Cross exhibit. Now in its tenth year, the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) initiative gives clients the empowering opportunity to express themselves and offer their works as part of a silent auction.

The new discussion paper says people who use drugs are some of the most stigmatised members of our society, and there is a desperate need for the laws to change.

It acknowledges an alignment with a comprehensive decriminalisation model, that applies to all drugs, does not apply civil sanctions, and abolishes threshold quantities.

It says civil sanctions, such as fines and community service notices, can exacerbate the underlying disadvantage of which drug dependency is often a symptom.

It recommends consideration be given to a staged approach to removing a fundamental feature of Australian drug law – threshold quantities – which uses the weight of the drug to distinguish drug use/possession and supply, a somewhat arbitrary measure. The paper refers to countries like Spain, Denmark and Uruguay which do not use threshold quantities and recommends relying upon other evidence, such as processing paraphernalia, or evidence of large transactions, to establish the offence of supply.

In the paper’s forward, Uniting NSW.ACT Executive Director Tracey Burton and Uniting Church NSW.ACT Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford explain that the paper was deliberately written to increase our understanding of a complex topic and encourage conversation.

“Many issues we face today involve complex ethical dilemmas without simple answers,” they write.

“We are guided by our Christian faith and the way Jesus astonished people with his grace, acceptance, and forgiveness, before he ever offered a word of judgment.”

“We observe that sometimes we must have the courage to take risks and break conventions, as Jesus did.”

In 2016, the Synod passed two resolutions supporting the decriminalisation of personal possession of small amounts of prohibited drugs and an increase in investment in drug and alcohol treatment.

The Fair Treatment campaign was created in 2018.

Last month the NSW Government committed $7.5 billion to build a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Dubbo, as direct result of the Fair Treatment campaign.

Originally written by Ashley Donnelly and published on www.insights.uca.org.au

Australia’s human rights obligations with respect to drug policies, laws, and their implementation

Every five years, the human rights record of each UN Member State is considered through a peer-review process led by the UN Human Rights Council, as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). As part of each UPR cycle, Member States submit a national report, and appear at the UN in Geneva for an interactive dialogue with other Member States.

Australia’s third-cycle UPR will take place in January-February 2021 (dates tentative due to COVID-19 restrictions), with the submission of its third UPR national report due in October 2020. The draft National Report has been released, with an opportunity for civil society members to provide feedback.

A collective of civil society representatives that have attended recent drug-related UN sessions such as annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs sessions and the 2019 CND High Level Ministerial Segment came together and submitted a response to the draft National Report, focusing on Australia’s human rights obligations with respect to drug policies, laws and their implementation. The submission brings forward the lack of specific reference to Australia’s Commonwealth, state and territory drug policies in the report, lack of reference to the importance of human rights within Australia’s National Drug Strategy 2017-2026 document, and considers the breaches of international human rights law through Australia’s Commonwealth, state and territory drug policies.

The submission calls on the Commonwealth Government Attorney-General’s Department to undertake a systematic audit of drug policies in Australia to more fully document the extent to which these policies do, or do not, accord with our nation’s human rights obligations, and to include a commitment to doing so in its National Report to the UPR. Download the submission here.