Drug policy. The policy that quietly sits in the corner, waiting for the leaders of the world to start debating. The policy that never gets talked about, largely due to stigma, and the belief that if our forebears said it was bad, then they must be right, and it must be bad. The recent banning of synthetic drugs shows a typical knee jerk reaction to an issue that will never go away, especially not with the standardised prohibitionist response of blanket banning anything that resembles a drug. The New South Wales Parliament recently held a committee inquiry into the use of cannabis for medical purposes. In May, that committee published the report, and stated in it’s findings “as a committee of the NSW Parliament we urge in the strongest possible terms that action proceed as quickly as possible to enable access by various groups of patients to medicine which could have a profoundly relieving effect”.
To the best of my knowledge, the government is yet to act on any recommendations from the inquiry. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, unfortunately, as drug policy has never had it’s time in the spotlight, and continues to be an archaic policy based on the ‘say no to drugs’ era, even though there’s insurmountable evidence that cannabis can positively effect so many lives. Meanwhile, the two biggest drugs consumed, alcohol and tobacco, enjoy a lifestyle that’s not only ingrained into culture and widely accepted, but somehow hides behind a murky corporate shadow that doesn’t advertise the 7.5 million deaths they cause each year between them. Australians need to re-assess what they class as risk, and start questioning why a drug policy can’t be modernised to progress as society and culture also progresses. We currently have a system intent on treating drug users as criminals, ‘rehabilitating’ them in prison, instead of providing education and support through a health based policy, which would greatly reduce harm. The black market thrives on prohibition, where there’s a demand, there will be a supply. Government regulation of the drug market removes the profit and demand from the black market, and harm is reduced through less risk, better quality control of production and supply, and strict regulation. Until we have a civilised debate on drug policy, using evidence based research from modern scientific methods, risk will not be reduced, and no lives will be saved by a government that fails to accept a simple truth. Education, not prohibition. Australia, it’s time we talked about drugs.
What do you think? What more needs to be done? How can we get a more effective system in place?
Thanks to member Damon Adams for writing this piece.
Damon tweets @ThatDamonGuy