Achieving drug decriminalisation amidst change: lessons for Victoria from the ACT

The recent Victorian election returned Labor and handed significant power to the Legalise Cannabis party on the crossbench of the Legislative Council, potentially hastening a period of drug law reform. Over the last five years, the ACT has legalised the possession and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis for personal use and voted to decriminalise possession of small amounts of many drugs. The ACT followed through on a health-based response to drug use by initiating Australia’s first drug-checking service, initially at festivals and now at a pilot fixed site and is modestly increasing investment in treatment services. This presentation will examine critical factors for successful legal reform in the ACT, including leadership from a backbencher within the governing party, ministerial leadership, evidence-based media coverage, and an incremental approach. Obstacles, and how they were overcome, will also be examined.


Devin Bowles, CEO, Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA)

Dr. Bowles is the CEO of ATODA, the ACT peak body for AOD services. Devin has previously taught at the Australian National University Medical School and has published on a wide range of health topics. He has significant board experience, including at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.


Credited Authors

Siobhan Reeves, Senior Policy Manager, Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA)

Elisabeth Yarbakhsh, Workforce Development and Research Officer, Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA)


Click here to view the Presentation Slides