New approach to save lives

Published Thursday, 20 April, 2023 at 06:22 PM

Minister for Police and Corrective Services and Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
The Honourable Mark Ryan


  • Queensland’s Police Drug Diversion program will be expanded to include the minor possession of all types of drugs by implementing a new tiered approach:
    • 1st minor drug-possession offence - a police officer issues a warning, accompanied by a drug warning notice and a police referral to a support service.
    • 2nd and 3rd minor drug-possession offence - a police officer offers the opportunity for the person to participate in a mandatory Drug Diversion Assessment Program.
    • 4th minor drug-possession offence - a police officer issues the offender with a notice to appear in court.
  • Tough approach to drug traffickers; the penalty for drug trafficking will increase from 25 years imprisonment to life imprisonment.

Queensland Police will have new powers when it comes to dealing with people found with small quantities of drugs.

This is about helping people, who are often young, deal with a health issue.

Currently Police have the power to divert people found with small quantities of cannabis to a drug diversion assessment program.

This new legislation will extend that power to other drugs and provide a tiered health response.

This will bring Queensland in line with all other jurisdictions across the nation.

According to police, diversion programs result in the majority of those individuals never having contact with police again.

In Queensland each year, police will come across approximately 20,000 people in possession of a small quantity of drugs for their own personal use.

Currently police can spend around 9 working hours processing a minor drug offence case through to its conclusion in court, where the individual who has been charged may not receive the early intervention from health experts they may need.

Expanding the police drug diversion program will free up police time to focus on serious drug offending such as drug supply, trafficking and manufacturing, while keeping people with a health issue out of the judicial system.

It’s a commonsense approach based on the evidence that if you divert people early to health and education services, they are less likely to reoffend.

It’s about preventing crime.

This approach will be supported by initiatives like Better Care Together – a plan for Queensland’s state-funded mental health, alcohol and other drug services through to 2027.

The plan includes $1.645 billion over five years to improve mental health, alcohol and other drugs services, and deliver more beds, dedicated services, increased crisis response and suicide prevention initiatives and a package specific to First Nations peoples.

At the other end of the scale, the penalties for those intent on spreading misery throughout the community via trafficking dangerous drugs, will increase significantly.

The trafficking of dangerous drugs results in significant economic and social harm to the community and the increase in penalty will make it clear there is zero tolerance to this form of drug offending.

The penalty for someone convicted of drug trafficking will increase from 25 years imprisonment to life imprisonment.

Quotes attributable to Police Minister Mark Ryan:

“The courts get needlessly clogged with minor cases that are really a health issue.

“The individual doesn’t get the help they need.

“And police spend thousands of hours that could be better focussed on targeting the drug traffickers.

“The police support this approach.

“Every one of the Queensland based Police Commissioners since the Fitzgerald era supports this approval.

“Health experts support this approach.

“It’s a common-sense approach.

Quotes attributable to Health Minister Yvette D’Ath:

“If we can get drug users into diversion programs and keep them out of the criminal justice system, that benefits the entire community.

“The Palaszczuk Government recognises mental health is often a factor in drug use and is investing $1.645 billion over the next five years into the Achieving balance: The Queensland Alcohol and Other Drugs Plan 2022–2027 and the Better Care Together – a plan for Queensland’s state-funded mental health, alcohol and other drug services to 2027.

“Drug diversion is a key component of the Achieving Balance plan, released last year.

“By drawing on the best evidence-based practices we can start treating drug use as a health problem instead of a criminal issue.

“This means we can get people into intervention programs that include therapeutic and psychosocial support, and interrupt a pattern of offending.”

“Addressing health inequalities experienced by First Nations people and communities, is a focus of the Better Care Together plan, with the development and delivery of culturally safe and capable treatment, care and support.”

Quotes attributable to Attorney General Shannon Fentiman:

“This was a recommendation of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, which said that the Government should consider adopting a health system response to certain drug-related offences.”

“I am proud that the Palaszczuk Government is continuing to act on the Taskforce’s recommendation, including through expanding drug diversion options.”

 Quotes attributable to Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll:

“The QPS welcomes the proposed new drug diversion reforms”.

“We have seen great success with the current program, diverting 158,000 people into a health intervention”.

“We know this program works – as most people who complete their drug diversion appointment do not come to the attention of police again”

“The new reforms also align with all other jurisdictions, enabling our frontline officers to have more time focused on targeting drug manufacturers and traffickers domestically and internationally,”

“The QPS will continue to take tough enforcement action to remove dangerous drugs off the streets of Queensland.”

Quotes attributable to former Police Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan:

“I strongly support any measure that might successfully divert young people from the court system and potentially give them a chance in life.

“Such measures have my strong support.”

 Quotes attributable to former Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson:

“There have been many young people who have obtained a criminal history only because of the possession of a small quantity of illegal drugs for personal use who would never otherwise have been in the criminal justice system.

“This initiative provides a sensible and beneficial option in that regard.

“Our response to illegal drug use should have as many options as possible - this doesn’t mean they get off but that they have chances to make better choices.”

Quotes attributable to former Police Commissioner Ian Stewart:

“For years, Queenslanders have accepted successful drug diversion programs aimed at alcohol and more recently cannabis.

“This expansion of the drug diversion program announced by the Government today is a step in the right direction to treat rather than criminalise minor drug use.

“By expanding the already successful drug diversion programs in our State, the Government has today provided further opportunities for those suffering drug addiction to access health treatments and offer alternative outcomes for minor drug users other than a criminal history.

“Expanding drug diversion in Queensland will free up police to concentrate on recidivist criminal offenders, and those who profit from the tragedy of drug addiction particularly among our youth.

“Expanding drug diversion is not about going soft on crime. Just the opposite. It is a way of offering real hope to those caught up in drug use and providing a proven pathway to better personal wellbeing away from the criminal justice spiral.

“Increasing penalties for drug trafficking in the State while broadening the ability of police when dealing with minor personal drug use, shows a commitment to going hard on the real criminals involved in the drug trade.

“Enabling our police to have greater choices when dealing with minor drug users is a win/win for society and all involved. Diversion for some is a better outcome than the potential harsh realities of the criminal justice system.”

Quotes attributable to former Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner, Professor Peter Martin:

“The expansion of drug diversion is an effective policy approach in dealing with complex illicit drug issues. 

“It has been shown to be effective in addressing illicit drug use, by intervening to address the low level possession and use of such drugs while at the same time allowing law enforcement to focus their efforts on those that profit from the illicit drug trade, such as producers, suppliers and traffickers. 

“The reasons that people use illicit drugs is complex. 

“For those that possess small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use the consequences of a conviction can be life changing. 

“It can stigmatise the individual, stifle their prospects for work, damage relationships and prevent them from travel overseas. 

“These factors make it more difficult for an individual to break the cycle of drug use.

“Expanding drug diversion, in the manner proposed, is a sensible and humane approach, to this very vexed and challenging whole of society issue.” 

Quotes attributable to former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer:

I welcome the government’s decision to implement a diversionary approach to the use and possession of drugs.

“For far too many years otherwise law-abiding and decent young men and women have suffered convictions for the simple use and possession of drugs where no other offence of any type has been involved.

“The convictions have not infrequently impacted very negatively on their career options and prospects and have quite frankly served no useful purpose, as the current levels of drug use continue to show.

“If we hope to be successful in dealing with drug related conduct and offences, we need to start focusing far more strongly on the causes rather than just the symptoms, and the more options that are available to governments and police, the better the prospects of success or improvement are likely to be.”

Quotes attributable to the Chief Executive Officer of the Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies, Rebecca Lang

“We welcome the expansion of the Police Drug Diversion Program as an important evidence based step toward reducing the potential for harms associated with alcohol and other drug use in Queensland, including by reducing contact with the criminal justice system.

“Implementation will be key in ensuring its effective roll-out across Queensland and needs to be supported by a strong monitoring framework that includes input from peak bodies and non-government alcohol and other drug treatment services.”

Quote attributable to the Chief Executive Officer of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Dr Erin Lalor:

“A health-based approach to personal drug use is an important step forward in reducing stigma and other serious harms.

“It has many benefits for the whole of community and will see more people reach out for help and support.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the government to strengthen the health response for all people who use drugs.”

Quote attributable to AMA Queensland President Maria Boulton:

“This is an important step forward in treating minor drug use as a health issue.

"We have been calling for this since we convened our drug law reform roundtable in July 2021.”


Media Contacts

Phil Willmington (Minister Ryan’s Office) – (07) 3035 8300

Cullen Robinson (Minister D’Ath’s Office) – 0418 170 474

Phoenix Campbell (Attorney-General’s Office) – 0439 949 719