Legalise Cannabis and Ecstasy

A new approach to drug reform: regulated supply of cannabis and ecstasy

David Penington, University of Melbourne

Sixteen years ago the premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, asked me to conduct an inquiry into drug policy. At the time, deaths from heroin overdoses were high and the use of cannabis and other drugs continued to mount, despite prohibition.

While there has been some improvement in the management of drugs over the years, both in Victoria and nationally, fundamental problems remain. It's time to consider practical solutions to the problem.

I propose a novel system whereby Australians aged 16 and over have access to a limited, regulated quantity of cannabis and ecstasy from a government-approved pharmacy supplier – provided they are willing to go on a national confidential user's register.

When dispensing the substance, pharmacists would also be able to give clients advice and, where necessary, refer them for counselling or treatment.

Why we need a new approach

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Decriminalisation or Legalisation

Injecting evidence in the drug law reform debate

6qhk2zfk 1334191342 One argument for legalisation is it will move the problem away from police and the criminal justice system, where it currently dominates resources. AAP Image/Simon Mossman Alison Ritter, UNSW

We should all be concerned about our laws on illegal drugs because they affect all of us – people who use drugs; who have family members using drugs; health professionals seeing people for drug-related problems; ambulance and police officers in the front line of drug harms; and all of us who pay high insurance premiums because drug-related crime is extensive.

Drug-related offences also take up the lion's share of the work of police, courts and prisons. But what can we do? Some people feel that we should legalise drugs – treat them like alcohol and tobacco, as regulated products. And legalisation doesn't necessarily need to apply for every illegal drug.

Why legalise?

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Islamic terror and drug profits

The little-understood connection between Islamic terror and drug profits

Robert Rotberg, Harvard University

Terrorists are in it as much for the loot as for the ideology.

The Islamic State, or ISIS, could hardly exist, whatever its Islamist fervor, without hard cash from sales of pilfered petroleum, taxes on its subject population and kidnappings for ransom.

Likewise ISIS- and al-Qaida-linked groups in Africa prosper by trafficking drugs across the Sahara and by offering "protection" to smugglers who have long been trading illicit goods throughout the continent. Although Westerners tend to think of these groups as driven by ideology, new recruits may be more attracted by opportunities to make money.

Terror is big business, especially in the weak and fragile parts of the world.

Main Globasl Trafficking flows of cocaine

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Discrimination and Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

Five thousand people on Newstart or Youth Allowance may be targeted for a drug test trial.

centrelink drug test article  AAP Image/Dan Peled Bronwen Dalton, University of Technology Sydney

The Australian government's proposed random drug test trial for welfare recipients is not so random. The Conversation

Announced as part of the 2017 federal budget, Treasurer Scott Morrison wants 5,000 people on Newstart or Youth Allowance in three locations to undergo random drug testing from January next year.

Traces of drugs including ecstasy, marijuana and ice will be sought using saliva, hair follicles and urine samples. If drugs are detected, the user could find their welfare quarantined.

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Pill testing saves lives!

Seven young Australians died of drug related causes at music events this year.

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'Record Seizure' headlines mark another false step in misguided war on drugs

Alex Murray James Martin, Macquarie University and Stephen Bright, Edith Cowan University

The announcement this week of the largest seizure of methamphetamine in Australian history has been accompanied by a familiar chorus of uncritical and often sensationalised media reporting.

Record Ice seizures exaggerated
AAP/Alex Murray

The "street value" of the 903 kilograms of the seized drug was estimated at nearly A$900 million.

But are the claims government authorities make about drug seizures accurate? And what broader implications do large-scale seizures have for Australia's drug-control policies?

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Why is it still so hard for patients to get medicinal cannabis?

Alex Wodak, St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst and Laurence Mather, University of Sydney

This week the federal government granted its first license for an Australian company to grow and harvest medical marijuana. The Conversation

This follows Australia's amending of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 to legalise the production and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The amendment came in February 2016, a year after the death of campaigner Daniel Haslam.

Daniel suffered distressing side effects of chemotherapy, some of which were ameliorated by cannabis. While these changes sound promising for sufferers like Daniel, if he were alive today, he would still not be able to lawfully obtain medicinal cannabis.

Despite the media attention, extensive political and medical commentary on the subject, and the fact that more than two thirds of Australians have supported medicinal cannabis for many years, a patient with a clear cut and widely accepted case for being able to use lawful medicinal cannabis would still be unable to.

medical cannabis

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"Ice Wars" Message is Overblown and Unhelpful

Nicole Lee, Curtin University

Without doubt, crystal methamphetamine, or ice, is capable of causing immense harm. That's true for many drugs, including alcohol. But when facts are distorted to create fear and stigma it helps no one. Not the people who use ice. Not their families. Not the health professionals supporting them. Not the police who enforce drug law.

Abc Ice War is poor journalism and drug war propaganda

Ice Wars, airing over the next few weeks on ABC, shows the dark side of crystal methamphetamine use. It shows the great, but difficult work that police, mental health and substance use treatment professionals do every day.

It carefully explains some of the commonly misunderstood effects of the drug. It shows the breadth of the ice problem across police, treatment services and individuals. And it shows how people are suffering and the compassionate response that is possible from health workers and police.

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Why Australia needs drug consumption rooms

As senior law enforcement officials line up to say Australia cannot arrest its way out of our illicit drug problems, some politicians have expressed opposing views about drug consumption rooms. This debate is now raging in Melbourne.

Safe Injecting FacilityDrug consumption rooms enable people to use drugs under the supervision of trained staff. Generally established close to large drug markets, they have been shown to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, reduce deaths and injuries due to drug overdose, reduce ambulance call-outs, increase referral to health and social services including detoxification and drug addiction treatment and reduce public drug injecting and numbers of discarded needles.

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The Poison of Prohibition

Last weekend saw another series of overdoses, this time in Melbourne.

According to the United Nation's 2014 World Drug Report, Australia has the highest proportion of recreational drug users in the world. This suggests that this country's drug policy has been ineffective in reducing use or curbing demand, let alone protecting people from the harm that illicit drugs can cause.

For example, we are number one in the world when it comes to per capita use of ecstasy. While the government has paid lip service to "harm minimisation", it has actively opposed the use of pill testing at concerts and festivals. Not only does pill testing help people to avoid consuming ecstasy laced with dangerous chemicals, it additionally appears to have an impact in shaping the black market. According to a report made by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, "Products identified as particularly dangerous that subsequently became the subject of warning campaigns were found to leave the market."

poison-drugs.jpg

Despite the evidence of pill testing providing safer outcomes for users, all Australian Governments have taken a more puritanical approach. The safety advice given to punters, is simple. "Don"t do it. Don't take the pills and you'll be fine."

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