Canberra could become a ‘fantasyland’ of drug abuse after the decriminilisation of hard drugs such as heroin, ice, cocaine and LSD.
Australians are expected to flock to the nation’s capital for drug-fuelled escapades as the ACT becomes the first state in the country to decriminalise illicit drugs in small quantities.
ACT chief police officer and Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Neil Gaughan said he expects herds of revellers to head to Canberra when drug laws are relaxed on October 28.
‘It would be naïve not to think people won’t come down, even for a weekend, to get on the coke and not worry about the cops,’ deputy commissioner Gaughanm told the Daily Telegraph.
The warning has raised fears the peaceful streets could be turned into a cesspool of criminal activity similar to parts of the United States where drug-addled ‘zombies’ roam the pavements.
The ACT could soon be engulfed by drug-fuelled revellers following the decriminalisation of almost all illicit substances including heroin, meth, cocaine and LSD (stock image pictured)
A picture emerged last week showing the effects of the fentanyl epidemic in Philadelphia in the USA
Deputy commissioner Gaughan said the new legislation by the ACT Labor-Greens government could lead to conflict between bikie gangs, increased drug use and long term mental health issues.
‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Rebels’ national run is to Canberra and coincides almost to the day with the introduction of the new laws,’ he said.
‘At the moment Canberra is pretty much a one club town, which is the Comanchero, but we will see if that changes.’
The new legislation will decriminalise the possession of a small amount of most drugs except fentanyl, where those in possession are fined $100 or directed to counselling, and the drugs are confiscated.
Last week, a disturbing photo set out the stark reality of fentanyl that could soon take hold in Australia as it has done in the US, where it’s been called a ‘killer epidemic’.
The picture shows users of fentanyl – an opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine – in Philadelphia so badly affected they’ve been compared to ‘zombies’.
Lethal drugs including fentanyl and are driving an unprecedented overdose epidemic in the USA, with 107,622 drug overdose deaths recorded in 2021, an increase of nearly 15 percent from the previous year.
Fentanyl is prescribed for illnesses such as chronic pain, cancer and surgery, but is increasingly used by addicts looking for a high and is sometimes cut with heroin.
Authorities fear what will happen if the illegal version of fentanyl gains a foothold in places such as Wagga Wagga and Dubbo in regional NSW, where the drug ice is already a major problem.
‘If non-pharmaceutical fentanyl gets into those rural areas, it’s going to annihilate them,’ Alex Caruana of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Association told news.com.au.
Deputy commissioner Gaughan said he predicts that many drug users in the ACT would just factor in the $100 fine as part of their overall costs for a night out.
Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Neil Gaughan (pictured) said the new legislation could lead to conflict between bikie gangs, increased drug use and a high road toll
Concerns have been raised of incresed bikie gang related activity following the ACT decriminalisation laws
‘The big difference is if you are caught with coke or meth in Sydney you are charged with a criminal offence and have to go to court,’ he said.
‘Here (in the ACT) you will get a $100 fine and if you pay, it goes away.’
NSW senior police are expecting conflicts on the streets of Sydney as new demand in the ACT puts pressure on drug supply lines coming from Sydney.
‘There will be problems here without doubt,’ a senior NSW officer said.
‘It’s obvious there will be a new market for drugs and we know the suppliers are all mainly from Sydney and they will end up fighting for control.’
Deputy commissioner Gaughin said the rest of the nation will be watching closely to what unfolds in the ACT post-decriminalisation.
‘To be honest we just don’t know what is going to happen,’ he said.
‘I think we can presume we are going to see an increase in drug use and to some extent we are creating a more permissive environment.’
Mr Gaughan said one of the main concerns was the relaxation of the possession of methamphetamine, commonly known as ice (stock image pictured)
Deputy commissioner Gaughan said a major concern was the relaxation of the possession of methamphetamine, commonly known as ice.
‘Meth is highly addictive… so the worry is people will go on four or five day meth benders, go out and drive and kill someone,’ he said.
‘Last year we had 18 people die, a 300 per cent increase on the rolling average, and most of those people had meth or cannabis in their system.’
The ACT government has been caught boasting that the bill was introduced under the radar, with health minister Rachael Stephen-Smith telling a Labour national conference they took the legislation to the election in 2020 ‘quietly’ and got it through quickly using a private members bill.
Under the new laws, decriminalised amounts of drugs that would cost someone a $100 fine in the ACT include 1.5g of cocaine, meth and MDMA, and 1g of heroin.
50g of cannabis, 1.5g of magic mushrooms and 0.001g of LSD would also attract a $100 fine.