A move by the ACT government to decriminalise the use of illicit drugs in small quantities has sparked anger from police.
They warn it will trigger a spike in drug intake and gang activity, but drug experts say it will lead to a decrease in the number of people using.
In a raft of radical drug law changes set to kick in from October, ACT will become the first Australian jurisdiction to decriminalise the use of drugs such as ice, heroin and cocaine.
AFP Deputy Police Commissioner Neil Gaughan said the changes would lure recreational drug users into Canberra and spark an increase in drug-related deaths.
“We will be seizing drugs and if anyone has anything that looks slightly more than what’s allowed, we will lock them up for supply,” Mr Gaughan said on Monday.
Under the new laws, people caught with decriminalised amounts of drugs such as 1.5g of cocaine, meth and MDMA, or 1g of heroin, will be hit with a $100 fine.
Laws were passed in the Territory’s parliament in December after legislation was introduced by the ACT’s Labor-Greens majority government.
The deputy commissioner said it would be “naive not to think people won’t come down, even for a weekend, to get on the coke and not worry about the cops”.
Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute professor Nicole Lee said there was no academic evidence to show that decriminalisation would lead to a “honey pot effect”.
“All that is shifting is that we’re moving people out of the criminal justice system and pushing them more towards the health system,” Dr Lee said.
“We also have to keep in mind that 43 per cent of the Australian population have tried an illicit drug in their lifetime, and 10 per cent have used recently, so drugs being illegal doesn’t really stop people using them.”