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Canberra becomes first in Australia to decriminalise possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin

Stewart Perrie

| Last updated 

Canberra becomes first in Australia to decriminalise possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin

The Australian Capital Territory has become the first in Australia to decriminalise small quantities of drugs.

Legislation was passed last night (Thursday, October 20) that will allow people in Canberra to walk around with drugs like cocaine, heroin and MDMA without being arrested.

If you're caught with a 'possession-level' amount of illicit substances then you will either be fined $100, given a drug diversion program or even just a warning.

You won't have to pay the $100 fine if you agree to attend drug diversion class.


Possession-level amounts vary depending on what drug you're caught with.

Credit: CBCK-Christine / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: CBCK-Christine / Alamy Stock Photo

For cocaine and methamphetamine, it's 1.5 grams, for heroin, amphetamine and psilocybin it's 2 grams.

MDMA possession is capped at 3 grams and it's 2 milligrams for LSD and lysergic acid.


Anything under this amount will mean you won't get formally charged.

It's the first state or territory to decriminalise drugs and will take 12 months before it's fully in place.

The Guardian says the transition period will end in October 2023.

ACT Health Minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, believes taking a hardline approach to small quantities of illicit substance isn't the best way to deter drug use.


“The ACT has led the nation with a progressive approach to reducing the harm caused by illicit drugs with a focus on diversion, access to treatment and rehabilitation and reducing the stigma attached to drug use,” she said.

“This sensible reform is based on the expert advice that a health-focused, harm-reduction approach delivers the best outcome for people using drugs.”

Leijdekkers is accused of trafficking cocaine. Credit: Alamy
Leijdekkers is accused of trafficking cocaine. Credit: Alamy

However, not everyone in the ACT is happy about the move.


Deputy leader of the Canberra Liberals, Jeremy Hanson, feels this is opening Pandora's box.

He told the ABC that the territory should brace itself.

“It wasn’t taken to the community. It’s going to lead to more crime. It’s going to lead to more carnage on our roads,” he said.

“It’s not going to change the number of people going into the criminal justice system, and it’s not going to fix the problem that we have now which is not enough people being able to access treatment.”


The legislation has been updated thanks to a recommendation from a Legislative Assembly inquiry.

The probe was led by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who was also responsible for legalising the personal use of cannabis.

Before this, the maximum penalty for being caught with a possession-level of illegal drugs was two years behind bars.

Featured Image Credit: Simon Crumpton / Alamy Stock Photo. Heri Mardinal / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Australia, Drugs, News

Stewart Perrie
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