Queensland Parliament is currently reviewing their laws in relation to minor illicit drug offending after taking into consideration evidence and advice from experts. There is ever expanding pressure on the criminal justice system to deal with the number of matters brought before the courts and a significant number of those matters are for minor drug offending.

The proposed measures if introduced will mean that some of that burden on the court system is eased. It is expected in it’s first year the proposed changes could reduce the number of charges proceeding through the courts by around 17,000. The criminal justice system will be able to more focused on the more serious drug offences such as producing, supplying, and trafficking dangerous drugs.

Research indicates that in the last twelve months one-in-six Australian have used illicit substances.

The changes are being urged by the Queensland Police Service who are also of the view that the proposed measures are more likely to be more effective than the current system. The measures would be an expansion of the state’s Police Drug Diversion Program.

The proposed changes would look to implement a three strike system before the individual would be put before a court for possession of drugs in a smaller quantity, for personal use only. The first strike would see a warning issued to the individual. The second and third strikes would see an offer to complete a drug diversion program made to the individual. After the third strike or if the program is refused than the individual would be required to attend court for the matter.

The proposal has strict guidelines for how you can be eligible for the three-strike program, which would include the amount found in your possession, an admission to using the substance, you must not have other outstanding criminal charges, or have been dealt with for serious drug offending in the past.

As the legislation is still in draft form there are still changes which are likely to occur. The initial proposal focused on those found in possession of cannabis of under 50 grams, however the government is in discussions on including all drugs, including heroin, meth and cocaine.

The draft laws are due to come back before the Parliament for debate in the coming months. It is currently before a parliamentary committee for scrutiny and community consultation before it returns to Parliament and a vote is taken on the Bill.

Drug Diversion Programs are found to have high rates of success and the Police believe that if more minor drug offenders were sent to these programs for their first offences they would not come before the courts for similar offending in future.

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