The Queensland Government has tabled legislation that would divert people repeatedly found with small amounts of illicit drugs to education programs instead of court. The legislation was introduced to Parliament by Police Minister Mark Ryan, who called the proposed reform a “commonsense change”. Under current laws, only people caught with personal amounts of cannabis can be referred to the education programs. Those found with all other illicit drugs are currently subject to prosecution.
What’s in the Draft Law?
The Queensland Government has proposed a more lenient structure they hope will encourage users to abandon illicit substances. Under the changes, those caught more than once with small amounts of all illegal drugs for personal use, including heroin and cocaine, will be offered to partake in the program. Those caught for the first time will be given an official warning. An offer to attend the drug education program will be extended on the second and third time a person has been caught. On the fourth time, an offender will be subject to a charge.
If the person has been previously sentenced on drug charges, or their personal drug possession is related to another crime (e.g. stealing money to buy the drugs), they won’t be offered access to the program.
Why Was This Proposed?
The government says the legislation will relieve pressure on the criminal justice system, and also allow police to focus their efforts on suppliers and manufacturers of illicit substances. Under the draft law, the maximum penalty for drug traffickers will also be raised from 25 years to life imprisonment.
A spokesperson for the Liberal National Party Opposition accused the government of prioritising the “weakening” of drug laws, saying that “most Queenslanders” would say the legislation shouldn’t be a focus of Parliament. As the Queensland Government has a majority of seats in Parliament, they won’t need any cross-party support to pass the laws if all Government members vote as a bloc.