• Legal highs: arguments for and against legalising cannabis in Australia

    Legal highs: arguments for and against legalising cannabis in Australia

     April 18, 2018 ·   · 2 reactions

    Nicole Lee, Curtin University and Jarryd Bartle, RMIT University

    Greens leader Richard Di Natale wants Australia to legalise cannabis for personal use, regulated by a federal agency. This proposal is for legalisation of recreational use for relaxation and pleasure, not to treat a medical condition (which is already legal in Australia for some conditions).

    According to the proposal, the government agency would licence, monitor and regulate production and sale, and regularly review the regulations. The agency would be the sole wholesaler, buying from producers and selling to retailers it licences.

    The proposed policy includes some safeguards that reflect lessons we've learned from alcohol and tobacco. These include a ban on advertising, age restrictions, requiring plain packaging, and strict licensing controls. Under the proposal, tax revenues would be used to improve funding to the prevention and treatment sector, which is underfunded compared to law enforcement.

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  • Democratising Drug Policy

    Democratising Drug Policy

     April 13, 2018 ·  

    Reference: Ritter, A., Lancaster, K. & Diprose, R. (2018). "Improving drug policy: The potential of broader democratic participation." The full academic paper and research is available online at the International Journal of Drug Policy

    We need governments to make better decision about illicit drugs. The alternative is to remain stuck in the same futile cycle.

    Every time a young person dies tragically and needlessly at a music festival or dance party, our commentators clamour for our politicians to respond immediately. We make drugs policies on the run. But, policy quick-fixes are mostly ineffective and we find ourselves no better prepared to avert future tragedies or drug-related harm.

    We need to change the way drugs policies are made.

    We have decades of research that tells us what works and we are continuously building that evidence base. Smarter drug policy would involve making use of that evidence alongside and integrated with the other drivers of policy such as public opinion, and personal experience.

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  • Victorian Parliamentary Drug Inquiry

    Victorian Parliamentary Drug Inquiry

     April 12, 2018 ·   · 1 reaction

    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.


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  • Decriminalisation of drug use and possession in Australia – A briefing note

    Decriminalisation of drug use and possession in Australia – A briefing note

     April 10, 2018 ·  

    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.

    Currently there is debate about how Australia could better respond to illegal drugs and the associated harm. One frequently raised option is "decriminalisation of drug use and possession".

    This briefing paper explains:

    • What decriminalisation is, and how it differs from prohibition and legalisation
    • Public opinion on decriminalisation in Australia
    • What the research evidence tells us about decriminalisation
    • Which countries have adopted decriminalisation policies
    • What currently occurs in Australia


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  • What If We Stopped Punishing Drug Users

    What If We Stopped Punishing Drug Users

     March 03, 2018 ·   · 1 reaction

    Let me repeat a phrase that has been used so often it is almost a cliché: the war on drugs has failed.

    Existing drug policies have increased drug-related harm, punished the vulnerable and the addicted and bolstered organised criminal networks.

    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.

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  • Pointless Drug Prohibition Impedes Medical Breakthroughs

    Pointless Drug Prohibition Impedes Medical Breakthroughs

     February 28, 2018 ·  

    Medical breakthroughs missed because of pointless drug bans

    Magic mushrooms might be less mysterious if scientists could find out more about them.

    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.


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  • Three reasons why scientific advice on drugs is ignored

    Three reasons why scientific advice on drugs is ignored

     February 19, 2018 ·   · 1 reaction

    By Ghaith Aljayyoussi, University of Liverpool

    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.

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  • Legalise Cannabis and Ecstasy

    Legalise Cannabis and Ecstasy

     November 23, 2017 ·  

    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.

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  • Decriminalisation or Legalisation

    Decriminalisation or Legalisation

     September 24, 2017 ·  

    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.

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  • Islamic terror and drug profits

    Islamic terror and drug profits

     June 10, 2017 ·  

    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.


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