Labor’s Kristina Keneally Is, For Some Reason, Against New Proposals To Change NSW Drug Laws

"Once a police obsessed NSW Premier driven by what 2GB says, always a police obsessed NSW Premier driven by what 2GB says I guess."

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Once again a politician has shown off their impressive compartmentalisation skills by imploring people to listen to experts, while in the next breath advocating for the opposite of what those experts have been telling us all.

For once no, I’m not referring to climate change — I’m referring to the decriminalisation of drugs, and the debate currently taking place in NSW.

Last year NSW held an inquiry into crystal meth and other amphetamines, hearing months of evidence from health and legal experts, as well as people whose lives have been affected by the drug.

One of the recommendations from that inquiry was for it to be decriminalised — and considering Gladys won’t even agree to a simple pill test at a music festival, that would be a pretty wild policy shift.

The government has emphatically shut the idea down — the premier today said her government “will not be going down that path“, while a spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s office also said the government “does not plan to decriminalise possession of illicit drugs“.

It’s a case of semantics, really — their comments were in response to widespread reporting that NSW’s cabinet was considering decriminalising small quantities of drugs and introducing a three strikes policy. The finer details of the plan are actually more of a “depenalisation”, but the end result would see people caught with small amounts of drugs get a warning and then two fines, before receiving a criminal conviction for a fourth offence.

This morning Labor Leader Kristina Keneally was asked about the idea on 2GB radio.

“I’m not a health expert and it’s been a while since I’ve been in charge of the New South Wales police force, but I really think we need to listen to some experts here,” she said.

“And I’m not yet convinced that what I see on the front page of the Tele is the right way forward.”

“I am highly concerned about the decriminalisation of drugs in countries overseas, and the message it sends to young people, particularly on developing brains, and the use of drugs like marijuana on an adolescent brain. So, I would strongly urge the cabinet to slow down and listen to some experts.”

If you are interested in the opinion of experts, you could always check out the inquiry’s report, which recognised that the criminalisation of low-level personal drug use can lead to “extensive harms”.

“Contact with the criminal justice system, including having a criminal conviction for simple possession, is directly associated with adverse impacts on employment, earning prospects, access to housing, access to treatment, relationships and wellbeing. The criminalisation of simple possession is a powerful source of stigma, which has a serious impact on the physical and mental health of people who use drugs, as well as their willingness to seek help,” it reads.

“A public health approach that creates an inclusive environment to support treatment would be a better model than the current criminal law approach.”

The proposal is expected to return to cabinet on December 14, so stay tuned for more.