New ACT drug laws will save lives

Church supports more humane approach to drug laws


29 July 2021

For immediate release

An ACT bill seeking to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of all drugs would reduce stigmatisation of people who used drugs and lead to an increase in treatment which would save lives.

The Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod (NSW and ACT), Rev. Simon Hansford and the Head of Advocacy of Uniting, Emma Maiden, gave evidence today to a Legislative Assembly inquiry into the proposed new laws.

The private member’s bill introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly would mean people found with small amounts of drugs for personal use will no longer face arrest or jail time.

Rev Hansford said the proposed new laws would significantly benefit the community and reflect a fact-based, health-centred response to drug use.

“They reflect a desire to treat everyone with dignity and respect, including people who use drugs, and for them to have full access to medical treatment when they seek it. People who experience drug dependency should be treated with compassion,” Rev Hansford said.

“Our drug laws are based on stigmatising and outdated ideas, not modern medical facts and evidence. People who experience drug dependency are shamed and dehumanised, when they should be offered help to turn their lives around.”

Uniting established the Southern Hemisphere’s first medically supervised injecting centre (Uniting MSIC) at Kings Cross and is the lead partner in the Fair Treatment campaign advocating for a more compassionate response to drug use. It has also released a paper discussing best-practice approaches to decriminalisation.

Rev Hansford said: “We need to have a more honest, open and ongoing conversation about alcohol and other drugs. Pretending we can stop all use of drugs is simply not realistic. Our current laws create harm by driving people away from seeking and finding the support they need”.

Uniting has long campaigned for reforms to the current harsh and outdated drug laws and has spearheaded the Fair Treatment campaign which is supported by more than 67 legal, medical, community and church groups. See the Fair Treatment website. 

Ms Maiden said there is strong support in the community for drug reform and that 25 countries across the world have adopted a form of decriminalisation.

“We want to help those experiencing drug dependency. The evidence from countries around the world shows that removing criminal sanctions for possession of small amounts of drugs is the right path to take. We follow the science on COVID-19 and climate change. We should do the same for possession of small amounts of drugs,” she said.

 “This compassionate approach should apply to opioids and methamphetamines just as much as cannabis, where the ACT has a long history of law reform.”

The Uniting Church will seek to highlight the support for the ACT Bill among its churches as well as advocate for a similar approach to drug reform to be adopted in NSW.




For more information, please contact:   


Martin Thomas,  0477 340 704