Uniting Church Vic.Tas Endorses Decriminalisation of Drugs

This week, The Uniting Church of Victoria and Tasmania came together at their 2023 Synod meeting.

As part of this meeting, Uniting Vic.Tas brought forward a proposal, asking for support and advocacy for the decriminalisation of possession, and personal use, of small amounts of illicit drugs, as part of a health-based approach to the issue of drug use, similar to the proposal put forward by the Uniting Church NSW.ACT in 2016.

Rev Alistair Macrae put forward the proposal on Sunday on behalf of Uniting, noting that “the fundamental objective of drug policy should be to keep people safe and reduce the harm of use”.

“Care for the vulnerable is care for Jesus,” Alistair said in introducing the proposal.

In speaking to the proposal on Sunday, General Manager of Alcohol and other Drugs and Mental Health and Carers at Uniting Vic.Tas, Adrian Webber, said it was important to recognise the harm and stigma which criminalisation caused to people carrying drugs only for their personal use.

“Uniting Vic.Tas as a community services organisation has a long history of working to reduce alcohol and other drug-related harm, improve health and wellbeing and advocate for evidence-based and socially just drug policy,” he said.

“Drug policy profoundly impacts the lives of people who use alcohol and other drugs, and those dependent on substances.

“Criminal penalties for personal drug use add to the potential health and cause further harm, disproportionately impacting people who are already marginalised.”

Following further discussion, the Vic.Tas Synod resolved:

Recognising that substance abuse may cause enormous harm to individuals, families and communities and that the Church discourages use of illicit drugs, the Synod resolves:

a) To call upon the Victorian and Tasmanian Governments to foster an open dialogue with the community on the most effective strategies to reduce the harm of illicit drugs.

b) To affirm that alcohol and other drug-related policy in Victoria and Tasmania should reflect the following principles:

  1. Dependency on illicit drugs is the result of complex interplay between psychosocial, developmental and environmental factors requiring a health and social response;
  2. The fundamental objective of drug policy should be to keep people safe and reduce the harm of use and provide pathways to wellness;
  3. While law enforcement actions to disrupt large scale supply of illicit drugs remain essential, drug possession for personal use should not be a crime and individual drug users should not be subjected to the criminal justice system for personal use;
  4. Policies should not stigmatise, marginalise or punish drug users;
  5. Drug policy and treatment should reflect the best available evidence and resources should be allocated towards measures that are most effective.

c) To support and actively advocate for greater funding in demand reduction and harm reduction strategies including specialist alcohol and other drug treatment and harm reduction services to support people who use drugs, and to address harm to families and communities associated with illicit drug use, and to support and advocate for the decriminalisation of possession and personal use of small amounts of illicit drugs

d) To write to the Premiers, Opposition Leaders, Attorneys General, Ministers for Health as well as Shadow Attorneys General and Ministers for Health in Victoria and Tasmania; to inform them of this resolution.

We welcome Uniting and the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania for showing courage and supporting fair and just drug policy.

This post takes quotes from this article published on Crosslight– give it a read!