Queensland to relax drug laws, implement three-strike rule for people carrying small amounts of drugs for personal use

Drug laws in Queensland will be relaxed for anyone caught carrying small quantities of illicit substances like heroin, cocaine or ice, with users to be given three chances before facing a criminal charge.

The offer to complete a drug diversionary program will be made on the second and third occasions.

The changes will come as a result of expanding the police drug diversion program to those found in possession of personal quantities of all illicit drugs and unlawful pharmaceuticals.

Currently the program is only offered to people found with personal quantities of cannabis who are not facing other charges.

Police Minister Mark Ryan said the changes had been requested by the police service and would implement a “common sense” approach to minor illicit drug use in Queensland.

“It’s an approach that relieves the pressure on our criminal justice system and allows our police to focus their attention on people that profit on the suffering of others by producing, supplying and trafficking dangerous drugs,” he said.

“The government has listened to the evidence and the experts.

“A drug diversion assessment program provides drug users with tailored education and counselling, and where appropriate the person is connected with further treatment.

“It is a successful program and we know the majority of people who are diverted from the criminal justice system for possession of cannabis are not dealt with by the police ever again.”

Focusing on traffickers
Mr Ryan said the proposal was supported by current and former police commissioners, as well as medical and addiction advocacy groups.

He said 17,000 minor drug offenders could avoid prosecution under the proposed expansion of the program during the first year of implementation.

“We know that one in six Australians have used an illicit drug in the last 12 months,” he told parliament.

Mr Ryan said drug diversion will not be offered unless a police officer reasonably believes that the drugs possessed are for the person’s personal use.

People who have been previously sentenced to imprisonment for serious drug crimes will not be eligible for the program even if they are in possession of a small quantity.

If the offence is committed in connection with another indictable offence the diversion will not be an option.

The ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia which has decriminalised small amounts of commonly used illicit drugs with the laws taking effect later this year.

The changes will bring Queensland into line with other jurisdictions such as Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and South Australia.

Mr Ryan said drug laws would also be amended to increase the maximum penalty for the offence of trafficking dangerous drugs from 25 years to life imprisonment.

“This amendment is intended to send an unequivocal message,” he told parliament.

“If you profit from the addiction of others, you should expect to go to jail for a long time.

“The trafficking of dangerous drugs causes serious harm to individuals and the community alike, it must be met with the punishment that is equal to the harm.”

By state political reporter Rachel Riga
Posted Tue 21 Feb 2023 at 5:49pm