SEEKING SOLUTIONS: Substance Use Policy and Program Coordinator within the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, Edward Fewings, was one of the stakeholders who put forth their questions and concerns at the Rockhampton Ice Summit Q and A.
SEEKING SOLUTIONS: Substance Use Policy and Program Coordinator within the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, Edward Fewings, was one of the stakeholders who put forth their questions and concerns at the Rockhampton Ice Summit Q and A. Allan Reinikka ROK270417aicesumm

Is a Queensland drug revolution on the horizon?

CHANGES to a major drug program could see people educated rather than criminally charged for ice crimes.

A recent Queensland Health paper on methamphetamine use shows the rate of ice-related hospital admissions has increased 20 times in just six years in the state.

These damning figures, in spite of the millions spent on drug programs every year, have people calling for a legislative shake-up.

During a Q and A session at the Rockhampton Ice Summit yesterday, Flora Wellington from the Central Queensland Community Legal Centre (CQCLC), took to the floor to praise the rehabilitation efforts of countries which have decriminalised drugs.

"There's a couple of countries who have trialled decriminalisation of the use of drugs and I think from our perspective, it's great to see the money that's been put into the policing of users and the magistrates court, used in interventions, therapies and counselling," Ms Wellington said.

"...That's where the recovery is."

Portugal made the decision in 2001 after fighting a losing war against drugs, a move Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said allowed the country to focus on a more "health related and social help related process".

 

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart in Rockhampton at Ice Summit.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart in Rockhampton at Ice Summit. Allan Reinikka ROK270417astewart

But the success of the program was a "matter of perception" according to Mr Stewart.

"What I think we need to is look very very carefully at these programs...," he said.

"It still means people are using drugs and (we need to think), what does that mean for society as a whole."

The Commissioner took the opportunity to talk about changes to the State's drug diversion program which are currently being considered.

Queensland's drug diversion program was introduced as a way to turn people away from cannabis by offering them drug educational training instead of criminally charging them for minor drug charges.

Mr Stewart said the single two-hour sessions had proven successful in turning people away from addiction, but it was time to consider opening the program up to hard drugs.

"I think there is a very clear case for us to look at our current polices, procedures and legislation around drug diversion," he said.

"There is a lot of discussion and debate now going on in this country and certainly in this state to open that up to small amounts of other drugs, for instance ice.

"I think that's a discussion that we need to have.

"Ultimately we need to look at the evidence and the benefit of doing that."

Annastacia Palaszczuk was yesterday asked her position on decriminalising drugs, but simply stated "I'm not looking at that issue today".



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