The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is set to become the country's first jurisdiction to decriminalize small amounts of "the most commonly used and best understood illicit drugs".
The ACT government recently endorsed a proposed bill that will propose the creation of a simple drug offense notice (SDON) as an option when a person is found in possession of a small amount of an illicit drug, reports Xinhua news agency.
Once it is passed into law, the bill means some people caught with small quantities of illicit substances in the ACT will be subject to fines rather than criminal charges.
Authorities will continue to target dealers and disrupt the drug trade in Canberra.
"Thresholds for trafficking offenses will not change and the Government and ACT Policing will continue to work to reduce supply and prosecute dealers and traffickers through the justice system," an official statement said.
Rachel Stephen-Smith, the ACT's minister for health, said the ACT has led the nation with a progressive approach to reducing the harm caused by illicit drugs, through diversion, health treatment, and reducing the stigma for those most vulnerable and at-risk in the community.
"We know from research and evidence around the world that criminalizing drug users does not reduce drug use and that treating drug addiction as a health issue improves outcomes for everyone in the community," she said.
"The government will ensure through amendments that the principle of harm reduction is front and center of our approach to this change, by ensuring that discretion for ACT Policing is retained and that diversion is legislated and put on an equal footing with the SDON."
It comes about three years after the ACT became the first state or territory in Australia to legalize the personal use of small amounts of cannabis. (AA/IANS)