Tasmanian drug laws must change to reflect community expectations

18th Jul 2022

Tasmania’s drug laws must be brought into line with community expectations and the increasing evidence that shows a health-based response to drug use is the best approach, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Australian Institute of Health and Welfare survey results released last Friday show that 83 per cent of respondents in Tasmania believe it should not be a criminal offence to possess cannabis for personal use,” said Fabiano Cangelosi, barrister and spokesperson for the ALA. “It is clearly time for the Government to listen to the community on this issue.

“We drafted a Bill last year to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act – it’s ready to go and simple for the Government to implement.  Introducing this legislation would show that the Government is finally listening to the community and paying attention to the current evidence.”

The ALA drafted a Cannabis Decriminalisation Bill to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act to decriminalise the non-commercial cultivation, possession, and use of small quantities of cannabis.

“We need to legalise and regulate drug use in Tasmania to save lives. The ‘war on drugs’ has been lost and people are dying because of the failures of our system,” said Mr Cangelosi.

“The results from the recent Australian Health and Welfare survey show that community attitudes in Tasmania towards personal drug use are changing. Our laws must be updated to reflect these changing community expectations, and the increasing evidence that shows a health-based response is the right approach to personal drug use.

“Drug use is a complex issue and problematic drug use is frequently linked to financial hardship, mental illness, poor educational opportunities, abuse and other social issues. The criminalisation of drug use just exacerbates these problems. Studies show that decriminalising or legalising drugs does not increase use but instead allows an increased focus on health and social support for users.

“The evidence is there and it should give confidence that, in Tasmania, we can safely reform our approach to drug use and possession. In fact, the quicker we move from the current emphasis on law enforcement to a focus on the broader health and social issues associated with the harmful use of drugs, the more lives that can be saved.”

Read the ALA’s Cannabis Decriminalisation Bill 2021 here.

Read the ALA’s drug law reform report ‘Doing More Harm than Good’ here.

Tags: Tasmania Law reform drugs