The war on drugs is over "and drugs won", as one attendee put it at a forum in Bega discussing the need for reform around illicit drug policy this week.
The forum was run by NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann - who had publicly admitted to her own past use of MDMA earlier this year in an attempt to bring honesty into the debate around drug use - as part of her push for decriminalisation.
"Essentially decriminalisation means if someone is caught with a quantity of drugs for personal use they are not sent to court, it's not a criminal offence, but they could be fined or sent to diversionary programs to seek treatment," she said.
"At the moment the government is pursuing a zero-tolerance approach to drugs.
"It's behaving as through prohibition is working, as though the war on drugs is a complete success, and it continues to profligate an ideological and very expensive war on drugs."
She said "just saying no doesn't work", and as eight million Australians have tried illicit drugs in their lifetime it was clearly something people were doing.
"People's drug of choice are used to relax, unwind and have fun with their friends," Ms Faehrmann said.
There were 2162 drug-induced deaths in Australia in 2017, with an increase in the rate of unintentional overdose death in regional areas and 70 per cent occurring between the ages of 30-59.
According to a University of NSW project, in 2010 Australian governments spent about $1.7billion on illicit drugs, with 66 per cent going to law enforcement, 21 per cent to treatment and nine per cent to prevention.
Ms Faehrmann said there has been a shift in the state government over the past couple of years towards "overpolicing", giving the examples of how music festival attendees have been "harassed" during the search for drugs and said people can unnecessarily get a criminal record for having a joint in their pocket.
"It's become a war on drug users, not a war on drugs anymore," she said.
Ms Faehrmann is introducing three bills into parliament centered around drug law reform, including licenced pill testing, legalising the production, sale and use of cannabis, and removing criminal sanctions for drug use and possession.
She expects the pill testing bill will be debated before the end of this year.