NSW Police could soon be able to fine people caught with small amounts of drugs, instead of issuing criminal charges.
Under a new State Government proposal, anyone who receives an on-the-spot penalty for possession could complete a drug intervention program instead of paying for the fine.
However, anyone caught for a third time would have to face court.
The proposal is based on findings from a 2020 inquiry into the use of ice (crystal methamphetamine).
After 47 days of hearings and roundtables with healthcare providers, drug experts and community representatives, the inquiry made 109 recommendations. This included decriminalising drug possession for personal use.
In September 2022, the former Government said it would introduce fines for minor drug possession, but did not table any legislation.
NSW Police would be able to issue fines of $400 to adults found with small quantities of illicit drugs, at their discretion.
A tailored drug and alcohol intervention program would be offered to fine recipients. Anyone who completes the program would have their penalty waived.
The scheme – which wouldn’t apply to serious offences such as drug supply – could also reduce pressures on the Local Court system.
A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s office described the initiative, aimed at diverting offenders from the justice system to health and education services, as “a commonsense, evidence-based approach”.
“Formal contact with the criminal justice system only increases the likelihood of reoffending.”
Health Minister Ryan Park said “drug use and dependence are very much health issues and ones that are far better addressed through health support outside the courts and criminal justice systems.”
The state Labor government, led by Premier Chris Minns, doesn’t have a majority in either house of Parliament.
However, it’s likely the scheme will pass with the support of independents.
Representatives from the Greens and the Legalise Cannabis Party in the state’s Legislative Council (upper house) have welcomed the proposal.