WHY NOT: Sandy Bolton says why should so many low-risk drug users be locked up in prison. PHOTO: Barry Alsop.
WHY NOT: Sandy Bolton says why should so many low-risk drug users be locked up in prison. PHOTO: Barry Alsop.

MP's calls to ‘ease up on minor drug users’

QUEENSLAND's penchant for locking up "low-risk illicit drugs users" should be re-examined by the state as should the decriminalisation of people caught with cannabis for their personal use.

That is the push coming from Noosa independent MP Sandy Bolton who said her annual community survey found more than 86 per cent of residents "supported decriminalisation of cannabis for personal use and 85 per cent supported community service programs in lieu of prison sentences for low-risk offenders to alleviate overcrowding prisons".

According to Ms Bolton, this is one of the "conversations we need to have" after researching the issue communicating with a State Government minister.

"With the volume of Queenslanders in prison due to low-risk illicit drugs such as cannabis for personal use and the costs of imprisoning these low custody offenders, which is up to $2000 per week, the question is - why are we reticent to decriminalise?" Ms Bolton said.

She said this move has been successful in other states and has just been recommended in a recent report by the Queensland Productivity Commission.

"In Queensland today, our prisons have the highest rate of incarceration of non-violent offenders in Australia, the majority of these sentences being for repeat low-risk offences," the MP said.

"Once a prisoner enters the system, they are 50 per cent more likely to reoffend within two years due to multiple factors including difficulties re-establishing networks, gaining work and community acceptance due to the shame and stigma of being incarcerated.

"The rate of incarceration has increased by more than 160 per cent since 1992, over 62 per cent of these custodial sentences for non-violent offenders."

Ms Bolton said "our prisons are overflowing with non-violent offenders".

"These low-risk offenders could be contributing through community service for fire mitigation, pathway construction, environmental and other projects that would benefit communities," she said.

"If the current trend continues, the government will need to build approximately 4200 additional cells by 2025 at a cost of around $3.6 billion.

"In contrast, moving to a regulated, decriminalised recreational drugs system, is reported to result in a net benefit of around $850 million to the state."

Ms Bolton said studies undertaken in other states and countries where they have relaxed the criminalisation of illicit drugs show" very little to no increase in usage rates".

"Research indicates that the prohibition of illicit drugs has never worked," she said.

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