In a bid to reduce long-term drug offending, the NSW government is looking to introduce fines for minor illicit drug offences instead of criminal prosecution.
Under the proposed change, NSW police will be able to issue up to two on-the-spot fines to adults for personal drug use or small quantity illicit drug possession. Each fine will be $400. However, the fine can be waived if the individual chooses to complete a drug and alcohol intervention program. The change, expected to commence in early 2024, recognises drug use as a health issue and aims to keep people out of the court system by providing health support instead.
It is interesting to note that this approach was recommended several years ago by a special commission of inquiry into ice use. A similar program already exists for minor cannabis possession offences, but this proposed change will see it expanded to include drugs such as cocaine, MDMA and ice. It will not apply to convicted drug suppliers or traffickers, or people who have already incurred two fines for drug possession. Also, producers or manufacturers of drugs are not included in the program.
What does the data tell us?
According to police data, there were about 32,000 incidents of drug use or possession in NSW in 2022, with more than 23,000 people proceeded against. Of those, 19,000 went to court and the rest were diverted to other options.
Cannabis possession was the most common drug to attract a charge or fine, with about 12,000 people proceeded against. A third (4,000 people) were diverted from court. Amphetamines were the second most common illicit drug to attract charges, with almost all individuals facing court.
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The ongoing changes to the legal status of Drugs of Abuse does not change their potential impact at work. The impairing effects of illicit drugs, medications or alcohol all pose potentially significant risks in the workplace. Proactively managing the risk of illicit drugs at work via a robust drug and alcohol policy, ongoing training and education and a testing program, is the best way to protect the safety and wellbeing of your staff. To find out more, call DASA today on 1300 230 231 or email us at email@example.com
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