Drug Policy Australia is a public health NGO primarily concerned with promoting new approaches to minimise the health risks and other harms caused by the use of both licit and illicit Drugs which affects the well-being of all Australians.
"We believe that legally enforced abstinence is unrealistic and counter-productive in modern Australia which has one of the highest per capita consumption rates of illicit drugs in the western world."
Johann Hari is a patron of Drug Policy Australia. Please support our work.
According to the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey published by the Australian Government's Institute of Health and Welfare, 3 million Australians aged over 14 used illicit drugs within the preceding 12-months. It is estimated by Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission that in 2016 Australians spent over $9.3 billion a year on illicit recreational drugs.
Let me repeat a phrase that has been used so often it is almost a cliché: the war on drugs has failed.
Health professionals, lawyers and policy experts have all made the case against current drug policies. Such is the overwhelming expert opinion against our current approach to drugs that words need not be wasted trying to convince you here.
Nevertheless, critiquing current drug policies often provokes an inquisitive – if at times slightly smug – response, "well, what do we do instead?" To some, drug law reform stirs up images of laissez faire commercialisation of drug markets: a 'McHeroin' on every corner. Of course, this is not what professionals are advocating for.
Instead, there is a growing consensus amongst AOD professionals of the ideal legal framework to tackle drug related harm. To put it simply, most experts are calling for Portugal-style decriminalisation model combined with some model of cannabis legalisation.
Drug DecriminalisationRead more >>
Medical breakthroughs missed because of pointless drug bans
In 1632 the Catholic Church convened a case against Galileo on the grounds that his work using the telescope to explore the nature of the heavens contradicted the church's teaching - the culmination of a long fight that had lasted 16 years.
Galileo was put under house arrest and his research stopped. Some of his inquisitors refused even to look down a telescope, believing it to be the work of the devil. With his life under threat, Galileo retracted his claims that the earth moved around the sun and was not the centre of the universe. A ban by the papal Congregation of the Index on all books advocating the Copernican system of planetary motion - which we use today - was not revoked until 1758.
Three centuries later we have an equivalent case of scientific censorship. In the 1960s and the 1970s the UN effectively banned a whole range of drugs from cannabis, opioids and cocaine through to psychedelics - LSD and "magic mushrooms". They did this in a futile attempt to reduce the use and harms of these drugs, but both consumption and harms have increased ten-fold since then, and many of the negative effects of these laws include the rise of AIDS and the collapse of law and order in Mexico.Read more >>
David Nutt, along with many other leading scientists, published a study a few years ago that showed how the overall harms associated with some legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, dramatically exceed the harms of some illegal drugs, such as cannabis, ecstasy and LSD – and even the harms of heroin and cocaine. Of course, these top scientists were right, but politicians continue to ignore scientific advice, and society continues to be largely in favour of current drug laws.
Here are three factors that might explain this paradox:
1. Capitalism and class
Noam Chomsky, an American social critic and political activist, offered some interesting arguments to explain how capitalism and class shape the legal status of drugs.
Cannabis, for instance, is a plant that can be easily grown in someone's backyard, so it is not as easy to commercialise for profit. Tobacco, on the other hand, needs industrial technologies and hence is a suitable product for commercialisation. Similarly, making high quality alcoholic drinks – a fine wine or a decent bottle of whisky – is not nearly as easy as growing cannabis or magic mushrooms in your garden.Read more >>
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 approachRead more >>
Injecting evidence in the drug law reform debate
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?Read more >>
The little-understood connection between Islamic terror and drug profits
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.
Read more >>