Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh says her eyes were opened on the potential for drug decriminalisation in Australia thanks to a recent trip to Portugal.
Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001, instead offering rehabilitation support to addicts and recreational users under administrative law.
Drugs are still illegal in Portugal, with law enforcement focused on arresting and charging drug dealers and suppliers. Since 2001, drug-related deaths fell from 80 per million to three per million.
Deputy chair of a parliamentary inquiry into crystal methamphetamine, Senator Singh – along with inquiry chair Liberal MP Craig Kelly and Liberal Senator David Bushby – flew to Portugal last week to investigate.
“There are parts of the policy I think would work very well in Australia, and … we are now going to consider the Portuguese model in our final report,” she said.
Senator Singh said Australia would need to drastically improve its drug rehabilitation and support services should it adopt a similar policy.
She said Portugal’s approach to illicit drugs had removed stigma and allowed people to be open about addiction, increasing their chances of getting help.
The Australian reported Senator Bushby also indicated support for the policy but warned it may not work in Australia.
Senator Bushby was not available for comment on Saturday.
Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim welcomed the Labor and Liberal interest in decriminalising drugs, and said Portugal had proven treating drugs as a health issue was “far more effective” than locking people up.