It's time to talk about Drug Policy

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

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  • followed this page 2013-08-27 08:21:08 +1000
  • commented 2013-08-11 00:43:58 +1000
    The global war on drugs is failure, period! Prohibition only allows the corrupt and criminal element of society to profit.
  • commented 2013-07-16 00:32:58 +1000
    In regards to Paul’s comment, earlier here is a recent randomised control trial on cannabis, the study numbers are fairly small on account of the cost but the results are interesting are positive, 10 out of 11 reported reductions of >100 in their CDAI scores, here’s a link for the abstract:
  • commented 2013-07-13 16:41:22 +1000
  • commented 2013-07-13 13:33:36 +1000
    “As Frank, said earlier the health benefits are still hotly debated, the effects as an analgesic and fighting Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s disease are well documented there are also many studies showing it’s negative influence on brain activity.”

    My wife has Crohn’s and at no time has the professor looking after her mentioned cannabis as a treatment, but has suggested as a cause, as well as smoking. She changed her diet and is responding better.
  • commented 2013-07-13 13:31:13 +1000
    People keep talking about the benefits of Cannabis as if it is the greatest cure. Legalizing a drug for medical purposes is different to Drug reform.

    The subject of Marijuana use, and how it has no negative repercussions should seriously look at the facts and not those brandished around for the mere sake of the argument.

    Talk to any long time user of the drug, and how their life has become. Also look at the mental institutions and the cases of paranoia and schizophrenia, suicide rates etc. This also had a spike with the introduction of the synthetic versions, recorded deaths from the drug also happened.

    If Cannabis was legalized for medical purposes, who would administer it? a Pharmacy? How many break ins would there be? if there was a none source of the drug, how easy would it be to put on the market for non medical purposes.

    Who would monitor individual used, who would stop people going from doctor to doctor to get a prescription.

    Amsterdam are reforming their drug laws, and not in they way that makes it easy to obtain.

    Personally I don’t understand why people want to get high and lay around all day. As they say, its all shits and giggles to someone giggles and shits. Early last century, it was OK to smoke, well now its not. How exciting life must be if we want to dumb it down with drugs.

    Back to logical argument.

    Drug reform or medicinal reform? Whats the true question? We cant rely on statistics for this argument because no accurate records have been kept. what there is keeps referring to crime rates, but crime rates can also be attributed to sociological reasoning and economical positions.

    Prohibition is also listed multiple times, well heck, if prohibition doesn’t work, why is there a call for banning cigarette smoking?

    My Question is, What is the purpose of this thread, as the title suggests drug policy. then goes on to mention knee jerk reactions, the author is trying to persuade the reader that the authorities got it wrong, what if they said “swift” instead, the topic would be quite different.

    If the Policy was to ensure Drug Reform, this would mean taking into account all drugs, synthetic and natural, medicinal and recreational. From the title of the thread their is no distinction between the two.

    To have a rational discussion on the topic there needs to be a separation between recreational and medicinal drugs.

    Apart from Medicinal cannabis, tell me who ever said this is an awesome experience? then tell me how many people have said i’m glad I got clean and stopped using marijuana? In summarizing you don’t put your hand in a fire to know its hot. Define the basis of the policy before only agreeing on one drug.
  • commented 2013-07-08 18:36:14 +1000
    The 2011 World Drug Report issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime listed 10.6% of Australians between the age of 15-64 stating they had used cannabis at least once in the previous year and accounts for $3.8 billion of household spending as per an ABS report. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia spends between $1.3-$2 billion per year on drug law enforcement with no clear specifics on cannabis spending.

    Based on those statistics, prohibition as it currently stands is ineffective at best. The options we have in my view are to increase the scope and funding of drug law enforcement , to decrease it and make the enforcement more lean and efficient or a repeal of current prohibitive laws on cannabis.

    As Frank, said earlier the health benefits are still hotly debated, the effects as an analgesic and fighting Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s dieases are well documented there are also many studies showing it’s negative influence on brain activity.

    The socio-economic case for legalisation is showing promising results so far in California with a 20% reduction in juvenile crime within the first two years of legislation being passed. Areas of interest coming up will be productivity rates and recidivism rates in prison over the long term.

    Comparative to alcohol and cigarettes, I feel that there is a reasonable case to remove the prohibition on cannabis.
  • commented 2013-07-04 01:09:12 +1000
    …and finally cannabis having ‘a myriad of health benefits’ is debatable, but it is no doubt true that fatalities are nearly zero compared to virtually all other drugs, legal or not
  • commented 2013-07-04 01:06:47 +1000
    And of course as mentioned certain intoxicants are legal due to our cultural inheritance and these are responsible for the majority of drug-related deaths and illness. We need to be careful with this argument though as it ignores scale and relative impact – if alcohol and tobacco are used by many more people than controlled substances then obviously the controlled substances will have a lower absolute harm ratio, it’s the relative harm ratio that’s relevant
  • commented 2013-07-04 01:03:50 +1000
    Agree with Jarrod that we need to provide evidence for our assertions – best evidence is that the US alone has spent over $1trn on prohibition of narcotics over the past few decades and the rate of use has barely changed in that time
  • commented 2013-07-02 15:58:07 +1000
    i will vote for the Democrati Party purely for this purpose
  • commented 2013-06-30 10:02:49 +1000
    absolutely correct Jarrod
  • commented 2013-06-29 21:14:58 +1000
    “…even though there’s insurmountable evidence that cannabis can positively effect so many lives…”

    A strong sentence like this must be supported by a credible reference. We must not allow our rhetoric to be seen as unsubstantiated.

    A strong, viable alternative to the major parties in the form of the Democrats must be professionally presented and comprehensively prepared in order to deal with the breadth of the issues we put forward or respond to. We must not be a soapbox for airing disputable “facts”.
  • commented 2013-06-25 14:32:50 +1000
    Matt Riley, your argument rests on the preposition that people who suffered under the White Australia policy chose not to be white. There is sure to be people offended by your comparison of people who suffered through no fault of their own to other people who are punished for knowingly and willingly breaking the law.
  • commented 2013-06-25 02:57:59 +1000
    Matt your diatribe lacks content and full of unrelated inuendo.
    Please describe your quote "Myriad of Health Benefits’
    Your Alcohol and Tobacco reference is only valid with tobacco a “herb” like substance
    Can you prove as fact your statement that Cannabis has “never killed anyone”
    You should not emotionly relate prejudice to Cannabis Policy.
    Tobacco is being seen as a danger to the health of everyone who smokes it.
    Australia has legislated controls on Advertising to help and guide people not to use it.
  • commented 2013-06-24 15:44:25 +1000
    Cannabis policy in Australia and around the world is based on a moral prejudice which unfathomably, nobody seems to be able to see.

    Alcohol and tobacco actually kill around 25,000 Australians every year, and that’s not including the road fatalities. Drunken violence and other socially unacceptable behaviour due to alcohol impairment takes up enormous amounts of police time and resources. Tobacco use causes 1,000’s of lost work hours and billions of dollars added to the nations health care costs.

    Cannabis has never killed anyone, ever. Cannabis has a myriad of health benefits.

    So why is it that cannabis is illegal and alcohol and tobacco are legal? Is it because the policy is based in prejudice?

    When Australia had the “White Australia Policy” in place, it is pretty obvious that we were a racially prejudiced nation.

    Australia’s cannabis policy shows we are still prejudiced. We have government legislated persecution and discrimination, harassment and imprisonment and downright oppression of a group of people who choose to use a naturally occurring herb.

    End Cannabis Prohibition, end the prejudice and discrimination.
  • commented 2013-06-20 19:42:12 +1000
    marijuana is used for medical used in various individuals. Unfortunately it is also used as a drug of abuse complicating the issue. Other drugs are also available with possible similar effects. This drug is a mixture of substances and if the quality constituent or pure ingriediant was available for use then this substance could be trialed.
  • commented 2013-06-20 19:12:31 +1000
    Marijuana should be legalized for medical use.
  • followed this page 2013-06-20 15:55:49 +1000
  • followed this page 2013-06-20 12:50:50 +1000
  • commented 2013-06-19 20:26:16 +1000
    Drugs per say are foreign substances which may trigger good or bad reactions by the human body.Medico’s use and prescribe drugs for the benefit of their patents.They are
    subject to peer review, legal guidance and their sworn oaths.Other NEW drugs outside the conventional controls have been used in recent times. They have been used by people on a trial basis with doubtful efficacy and danderous consequences.