Programs and Initiatives


When attending a drug overdose, preservation of life is a law enforcement priority. NSW Police Force has guidelines to encourage police officers to exercise their discretion not to charge people present at drug overdoses for minor drug matters. This is designed to remove any reluctance that people may have to call an ambulance due to fear of police prosecution.

Police drug diversion strategies

Research indicates that there is a significant link between drug use and crime. Some drug users engage in crime to pay for the drugs they use, for example property theft.

Drug diversion initiatives give offenders who use drugs the chance to undertake education and/or treatment aimed at helping them to stop using drugs and committing further crimes.

Drug diversion initiatives do not change the legal status of drugs. Possession and use of illegal drugs remain criminal offences.  Drug and alcohol diversion programs that NSW Police Force operates or is involved with include:

Cannabis Cautioning Scheme
The Cannabis Cautioning Scheme provides for formal cautioning of adult offenders detected for minor cannabis offences. The Scheme uses police intervention to assist offenders to consider the legal and health ramifications of their cannabis use and seek treatment and support.

Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT)
The Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program is designed for offenders with drug problems who are eligible for bail and who may benefit from treatment and rehabilitation.  MERIT aims to prevent offenders committing crimes and returning to drug use by addressing the drug problems that may be fuelling criminal behaviour.

Diversion under the Young Offenders Act 1997
Under the NSW Young Offenders Act 1997 young people (under 18 years of age) who commit minor drug offences (such as possession of small quantities) may be eligible for a warning, a caution or a conference, in place of being charged for the offence.

Adult Drug Court
The NSW Adult Drug Court aims to help adult offenders with serious drug problems to break the drug-crime cycle by providing a supervised program of treatment and rehabilitation.