Australian Capital Territory (ACT) decriminalised personal use of nine A-class drugs, including MDMA, cocaine, and heroin, becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to give an affirmative nod at personal possession.
Under the passed law – which was first tabled in June – people caught with small amounts of illicit drugs will not face criminal prosecution from October 2023 onwards.
The legislation covers most of the common leisurely substances used among Australians, including MDMA, LSD, heroin, mushrooms, ice, cocaine, and speed.
But that doesn’t mean personal drug use will be fully legalized. Carrying a small amount (averaging just under two grams) won’t be a criminal offense anymore, but those caught with it will be fined, receive a caution, or be referred to a drug diversion program.
Police officers will decide how to treat each case, a civil fine of $100 will be on the table – an amount that needn’t be paid if the person chooses to attend a drug diversion class.
The ACT’s health minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, said the new legislation aims to reduce drug-related harm by embodying recommendations from health experts across the country.
“The ACT has led the nation with a progressive approach to reducing the harm caused by illicit drugs with a focus on diversion, access to treatment and rehabilitation and reducing the stigma attached to drug use.”
A 2021 survey revealed that nine in ten Canberra residents said they “overwhelmingly” supported decriminalizing drugs. Before ACT’s reform to decriminalise drugs, the maximum penalty for possessions was two years imprisonment.
This isn’t ACT’s first move to creating a safer environment by giving legal access to the forbidden fruit. Back in 2020, the jurisdiction legalized the use of cannabis, which allowed Canberrans to possess up to 50 grams of dried marijuana and 150 grams of wet cannabis.