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Canberra Today 13°/15° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Retired justice calls to decriminalise personal drug use

Directions Health Services patron Mr Refshauge with CEO Bronwyn Hendry.

RETIRED justice Richard Refshauge is calling for the decriminalisation of personal illicit drug use following the release of a position paper from the Directions Health Services today (December 3). 

Mr Refshauge has been a long-term advocate for development of harm minimisation policies, and says: “I have seen firsthand the harms criminal penalties inflict. The personal, family and community costs are high. Having a criminal conviction can prevent a person securing employment, cause relationship breakdowns, and even lead to poverty and homelessness.” 

The call comes after the paper highlighted positive impacts around removing criminal penalties and sanctions for offences involving use and possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use, saying it will have a positive effect on an individual’s health and welfare and the community more broadly. 

“All the evidence tells us that criminal penalties do not reduce drug use, yet, two-thirds of Commonwealth Government drug strategy funding is spent on law enforcement,” says the CEO of Directions Health Services, Bronwyn Hendry.

“Currently only a small portion of people with problematic drug use, receive the assistance they need.

“Early intervention and diversion into treatment, rather than the justice system, saves taxpayer dollars by reducing criminal recidivism; improving health, wellbeing and life outcomes; significantly reducing costs associated with the judicial process and incarceration; and reducing participants’ future reliance on welfare and service supports. 

“The current system is not working to reduce drug use or keep the community safer.” 

Directions Health Services argues that decriminalisation is a harm minimisation strategy that has been shown to be much more effective than the current prioritisation of criminal penalties. 


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