A call for drug decriminalization in Australia comes from the top. A plea to treat drug abuse as a health issue rather than a criminal issue was suggested in the Australian 21 report. Naturally, this also implies that it’s time to decriminalize cannabis.
Widespread reform of drug laws was put together by a group of legal advocates, former premiers and police commissioners, including, Bob Carr, former Labor premier of NSW, and Jeff Kennett, former Liberal Victoria premier. The Gaurdian analyzed the report launched this week.
Free the judicial system
The report covers 13 recommendations and is titled “Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?”
Its authors say that the proposed measures would reduce burdens on the judicial system. This would be a consequence of reducing or eliminating sentences for possession and use.
Instead, the report suggests a focus on health and social issues, assisting people fighting addiction. Softer drugs could be controlled and legally supplied, undercutting the black market. Thus, the move to decriminalize cannabis might yet turn into a form of legalization.
It was generally agreed that some substances such as heroin, ice and cocaine should never be made available even when regulated.
Decriminalize cannabis, reform drug laws
Jeff Kennett said there has been no intervention in more than 50 years, apart from the safe needle facility in Sydney. An anonymous donor funded the report, and it is the third in the series of the Australia 21 reports on drug reform. The first two were released 2012. The Australian drug problem has steadily grown worse since then, with more than 80,000 arrests made each year.
Kennett said the rise in the use of drugs such as ice, is putting emergency personnel at risk. “Where are the legislators with the courage to try a different route to bring about positive change?” he asked.
Mick Palmer, former commissioner of police convened the sessions to create the report at the University of Sydney. Four other former commissioners of police, and assistant commissioners, a former Supreme Court judge, two former heads of correctional services and former director of prosecution endorsed the report.
Current system is broken
Kennett said the current system is broken and not successful in reducing harm. A courageous stance is therefore needed. Drug reform has reached a deadlock in Australia. Redefining drug abuse as a social and health issue as has been done in 11 states in the US and in India, several European countries, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia has brought reform.
There must be a distinction between trafficking and high-end production, and possession and personal use says Kennett, he also stresses that reform should take time and be incremental. Every step should be evaluated.
Address the problem
Former Tasmanian police commissioner, Jack Johnston, says a review of the current approach should lead to replacing and tweaking legislation to bring about reform. Reform is a slow process. Educating people and addressing health and social issues through education would be more constructive than laying charges against users.
In some countries users are “sentenced” to do community service rather than receiving a fine. This would help communities while giving drug offenders a chance to find a purpose in life.