The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has implemented a groundbreaking law last month to decriminalise the possession of small quantities of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, meth, and ecstasy.

Under the new legislation, individuals found in possession of small amounts of illicit substances will no longer face criminal charges. Instead, they will be subject to civil penalties and diversion programs aimed at addressing addiction and preventing re-offending.

The ACT Health minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said this approach prioritises health and social outcomes over punitive measures, and aligns with the global trend of harm reduction strategies.

“We are not encouraging people to use drugs, and we are not facilitating the trafficking or dealing of drugs with this change,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Proponents of the new law emphasise its potential to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system and provide a more compassionate approach to drug users, but police officers within the ACT have voiced their distress over the policy shift.

Police officer Stevan Sredo said the law has the potential to increase drug-related crime and to undermine police authority.

This new law places us in a challenging position, as it challenges our core mission of upholding public safety. We remain committed to our duty, but we are deeply concerned about the potential impact of this policy shift on our efforts,” Mr Sredo said.

The ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia to decriminalise personal use of these elicit drugs.