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.
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 >>
Five thousand people on Newstart or Youth Allowance may be targeted for a drug test trial.
The Australian government's proposed random drug test trial for welfare recipients is not so random.
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.Read more >>
The announcement this week of the largest seizure of "Ice" in Australian history has been accompanied by a familiar chorus of uncritical and often sensationalised media reporting.
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?Read more >>