A bill to decriminalise the possession of small quantities of cannabis will be discussed by Victorian MPs in two weeks following its second reading in the upper house.

Debate was adjourned yesterday until early March after Reason Party leader Fiona Patten set out a bill that will instruct people using or possessing small quantities of cannabis to seek education or treatment programs rather than face arrest and conviction.

Non-compliance could still result in criminal proceedings.

But those who comply with the orders will not face police action and no admission of guilt or conviction will be recorded.  

The new decriminalised approach would apply to a number of banned substances and, in the case of cannabis, to small quantities of up to 50g.  

Patten, who has described the war on drugs as “one of the most disastrous public policy failures in modern history”, told the upper house: “We can reduce harm and save lives. We can reduce costs to the criminal justice system and in acute health care. We can reduce stigma. We can intervene early to change the trajectory of a person’s life.

“We can do this by treating drug use as a health issue solution, not a criminal one. That is what this bill will achieve.”

The bill has the backing of the Royal Australian College of GPs, while Patten said it is also in line with the views of the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and the Royal Australian College of Physicians.

Many countries around the world are also adopting a decriminalised approach, she said.

“This is an intelligent changed based on evidence that has the overwhelming support of the community,” Patten told MPs.

Despite broad support from medical groups – and the stark reality that the war on drugs is failing dismally – the Victorian Government has already said it will not support the bill.

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...

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