What is the ‘Two-Strike’ Drug Scheme?7 December 2023 in Criminal Law
NSW New ‘Two-Strike’ Drug Scheme
Under a major overhaul of NSW drug laws, drug users caught with small amounts of illicit substances will now have the option to attend a counseling course run by NSW Health or pay a fine, rather than go to Court. This development could potentially spare countless recreational users from facing criminal penalties as it is estimated that over 6,000 individuals will benefit from this proposal as they are diverted away from NSW Courts.
With the scheme coming into effect early next year, the program which currently covers cannabis, will be expanded, meaning the police will have the discretion to choose non-criminal measures when catching people with personal use quantities of MDMA, cocaine and ice. With this announcement, NSW falls into line with all other states and territories in Australia.
What drugs does it apply to?
Under the proposed changes, the scheme will apply to those individuals caught with:
- Up to 250mg of MDMA; or
- Up to one gram of cocaine; or
- Up to one gram of ice.
It already applies to people with less than 30g of cannabis.
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Can the $400.00 fine be waived?
Under the proposed scheme, police will have the authority to issue a $400.00 criminal infringement notice (fine) to individuals found with small amounts of drugs equivalent to a possession offence. This avenue would be open to an individual for a total of two times, before the police discretion on issuing a fine is waived. It has been specified that the new scheme would not apply to drug supply, dealing or trafficking, manufacturing, people with prior dealing convictions or people with large quantities of drugs.
One of the major aspects of the proposal includes the ability to have the $400.00 fine waived after the successful completion of a tailored drug and alcohol intervention program, organised through NSW Health.
Drug Reform Policies
According to NSW Health Minister Ryan Park, issues of drug use and addiction are primarily a health concern, and are better addressed through health support, rather than through the courts and criminal justice system. Health Minister Ryan Park emphasised that this scheme is evidence-based and it aligns with community expectations and responding directly to expert input and recommendations from the Special Commission of Inquiry into the drug ice.
The “ice inquiry”, which was led by Professor Dan Howard, revealed its findings in February 2020 after over a year of hearings. This report recommended the full decriminalisation of drug possession in the state, alongside the introduction of thorough pill testing at music festivals and the discontinuation of drug-sniffing dogs.
While Greens MP Cate Faehrmann views the change as a step in the right direction, she criticized the government for not fully addressing the ice inquiry’s recommendations. She hopes the reform will put an end to police harassment at train stations and music festivals, particularly in relation to the use of drug detection dogs.
Attorney-General Michael Daley stated that the reforms acknowledge that formal involvement with the criminal justice system often heightens the likelihood of reoffending, which can have widespread effects on employment, housing, and relationships. The aim is to ensure individuals receive the necessary health support rather than becoming entangled in the criminal justice system.
How can BSM help?
The criminal team at Brander Smith McKnight Lawyers appear at all Criminal Courts in NSW and are highly experienced with drug possession offences. Contact us now and we will strongly advocate for you in the legal system, represent you in court and protect your rights.