A former Wagga ice addict has backed calls to relax penalties for drugs

A former Wagga ice addict has backed calls to decriminalise drugs, but warned of streets awash with methamphetamines if police lower their guard.

The Greens have overhauled their drugs policy in the hope of sparking up the decriminalisation debate and lead to the legalisation of some recreational drugs.

It comes as 113 people in the Wagga municipality have been arrested in possession of amphetamines in the 12 months to June, 268 have been arrested for possessing marijuana and 19 were found with ecstasy on them.

In the same time, 15 ice dealers were nabbed by police and 30 pot smugglers were caught red-handed. 

Former Kooringal ice addict Ben Earl, whose 13-year-old son also battled the drug, agreed it was time to treat the problem medically, not criminally.

The recovering addict stressed people with problems should be sent into the health system, not the criminal justice system, which was not to say police should go easy.

“There’s enough speed, ice, heroin and cocaine in the community as it is without giving dealers the green light,” Mr Earl said.

“Where I’m from in Mount Austin and Kooringal, drugs have always been pretty easy to get your hands on, so if you completely legalise drugs the trade will go gangbusters.”

But Mr Earl claimed he would have died if he was sent to prison, instead of a rehabilitation program.

“I was close to jail numerous times because of my addiction, but I ended up in a drug and alcohol rehab, which saved my life,” he said.

“Drugs somehow get inside prison walls, so addicts should be sent to a rehab or a hospital where they can get the help they need.”

The government has labelled the proposal “reckless and dangerous” and “a threat to our community”, which would “embolden drug dealers and drug users by giving them a green light to continue their soul-destroying trade”.

Former Greens councillor and federal election candidate Kevin Poynter said harsh penalties did nothing to help locals desperate to kick the habit.

“Criminalising the use of drugs hasn't prevented it and in some ways it prevents people seeking help,” Mr Poynter said.

“It's important to deal with drug abuse - all sorts of drugs including alcohol - as a medical issue that provides people with an opportunity to find a way out of a very bad spot.”

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