“I disagree with decriminalisation.”
Those were the words out of the mouth of NSW premier Dominic Perrottet on Wednesday, as he announced the state government’s $500 million response to a costly, multi-year inquiry into drug laws in NSW.
“I want to make very clear the NSW Government does not support the recommendation to decriminalise drugs,” he told reporters. “Drugs have no place in our society.”
“This is the balance you have to get right. We need to send clear messages to people across the state to not take drugs. And then you deal with people who are in the system… you need to provide the care and support and intervention to help them overcome that addiction.”
The premier’s response does not come as a shock.
The NSW state government has been battling internally over the report for more than two years, after professor Dan Howard – who led the Special Commission of Inquiry into the use of ice (and, later, other drugs) in the state – handed over his findings with 109 recommendations. Perrottet says his government will support 86 of them, but none of them before next year’s state election.
Professor Howard has not remained silent over the government’s slow response to the report. In June, he told 2GB Radio Perrottet’s government was “dragging its feet”.
“It’s really important that people understand that decriminalising is not legalising,” he said.
In his inquiry, professor Howard called decriminalisation “the bare minimum of change.”
Alongside decriminalisation, the NSW government has also ruled out acting on the inquiry’s recommendations to introduce fixed-site pill testing (like that implemented in Canberra earlier this year), an increase in the amount of supervised injecting centres, and an abolishment of drug detection dogs.
There will, however, be support for a two-strikes policy aimed at low-level drug offenders, assisting them in bypassing the court system in favour of health intervention programs. The proposed scheme would see low-level offenders allowed a maximum of two infringement notices where they can avoid financial penalties if they undergo an intervention scheme.
The government will also commit $358 million towards health treatment gaps and expand the Sydney drug court from one day to five.
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