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 wellbeing 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."
According to the 2013 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 that Australians spend over $7 billion a year on illicit recreational drugs.
Recently a lengthy 640-page Inquiry into Drug Raw Reform was tabled in the Victorian parliament. The report looked at how effective the state's current laws were in regards to dealing with drugs, and called for a more effective response centred around health and safety.
The committee looked at not only other Australian state and territories, but travelled overseas to other jurisdictions, such as Geneva, Lisbon and Vancouver, to see how the positive impact of their drug law reforms could be adopted in Victoria.
Inquiry into Drug Law Reform
The report considered referring those who were caught with small quantities of drugs to rehabilitation, treating addiction health issue and looking at 'back of house' testing where police, health professionals and harm reduction organisations work together to identify dangerous substances and alert the community where deemed appropriate.Read more >>
Citation: Hughes, C., Ritter, A., Chalmers, J., Lancaster, K., Barratt, M. & Moxham-Hall, V. (2016). Reproduced with permission: Drug Policy Modelling Program, NDARC, UNSW Australia.
1. Decriminalisation does not mean legalisation: decriminalisation removes criminal penalties for use/possession either by law (de jure) or by practice (de facto).
2. There is strong public support in Australia for decriminalisation approaches.
3. The research evidence indicates that decriminalisation of drug use:
- Reduces the costs to society, especially the criminal justice system costs
- Reduces social costs to individuals, including improving employment prospects
- Does not increase drug use
- Does not increase other crime
- May, in some forms, increase the numbers of people who have contact with the criminal justice system (net widening)
4. Many countries around the world have decriminalised drug use and possession in various ways.
5. Australia currently has a mixture of de jure and de facto decriminalisation schemes for use and possession of illicit drugs: but decriminalisation is not universal. Accordingly, many people continue to be sent to court for possession of only minor quantities of drugs.
6. There is an opportunity to expand decriminalisation for drug use in Australia, particularly through de jure decriminalisation schemes targeting all illicit drugs. This may further reduce costs to the criminal justice system and to individuals.Read more >>
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.