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The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has called for a health-first approach to alcohol and other drug use.
This comes after reports of the Reason party’s Fiona Patten introducing a private member’s bill to institute a decriminalisation model in Victoria.
Instead of a punitive approach via the criminal justice system, Victorian police would instead issue a mandatory notice and referral to drug education or treatment to people possessing a drug of dependence or who are believed to have used a drug of dependence. Compliance with this process would result in no finding of guilt or criminal record.
It is similar to the Portuguese model introduced in 2001. Of the more than 32,000 drug arrests in Victoria in the year leading up to September 2021, 80% were for drug use or possession only rather than trafficking large drug quantities.
RACGP president Dr Karen Price said saving lives and reducing harm must always come first:
Alcohol and other drug use is, primarily, a health issue that should be managed by health professionals, including GPs.
Almost everyone knows someone who has been negatively affected by alcohol or other drug use in some form, it cuts across all demographics and all segments of society. So, if you declare a “war on drugs” you are declaring war on someone’s partner, family member, colleague, or friend – it just makes no sense.