NSW looking at a warning and fine based system for personal illegal drug possession

People caught with a small amount of illegal drugs in NSW may soon just be let off with a talking to under a proposed radical overhaul of laws.

News.com.au understands the State Cabinet met on Monday night and agreed to look at a new approach to policing drugs across the state.

Under the rules, the current approach to personal drug use could be turned on its head with a warning and fines based system for people caught with a personal quantity of illegal drugs put in place.

A source who spoke to news.com.au said the proposal is a “three chance policy” that would see those caught with personal quantities of illicit drugs initially given a warning and issued a fine on the 2nd and 3rd instance. Only after that would criminal penalties be brought in.

It’s understood the government is still working out the details, such as exactly what amount of drugs would fit under the definition of personal use.

The move follows recommendations for drug law reform after an inquiry into drug-related deaths at music festivals.

Greens MP David Shoebridge — who has long campaigned against the NSW Government’s “heavy-handed” approach to drugs — said the new laws were a step in the right direction.

“This is a victory for common sense, a win for young people who don’t want to be monstered just for being young and ultimately a win for police who can divert these resources to fighting serious crime,” he said.

“These are modest changes, far from full decriminalisation, but if they do become law they will reduce unnecessary and aggressive policing of minor drug offences.

“This will not end the government’s unwinnable war on drugs but it will lead to an important rebalancing of powers between police and civil rights.”

It’s understood the new measures were welcomed by cabinet on Monday, but there are grumblings from the right of the party who believe it makes the government look “soft” on drugs.

State Cabinet is likely to firm up its policy later this month.

In a sweeping five-page report last year state coroner Harriet Grahame called for the introduction of pill testing, removal of sniffer dogs and restricted powers to conduct body searches after she conducted an inquest into the deaths of six festival goers in NSW.

“Decriminalising personal use of drugs as a mechanism to reduce the harm caused by drug use,’’ was one of the recommendations.

The report also called for the removal of drug detections dogs because their presence causes overdoses.

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Sam Bell

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