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By Dries Van Thielen
“Today we’re waist-deep in another unwinnable war, and many political leaders want to push on. This time it’s a war on drugs. About 23 million Americans use illicit drugs every month, despite annual federal outlays of $3.9 billion. Even the arrests of 824,000 Americans a year don’t seem to be having much effect”.
Even though this quote by David Boaz dates back to 1988, it holds an actual sense. A majority of Western Countries are still reluctant to the idea of drugs being freely available to the public. Politicians still fight this war without victors. The one exception to the rule is Portugal. In 2002, the Portuguese government decided to decriminalize drugs and thus far they have received extremely positive feedback. However, it seems as if Portugal will soon have another member in its decriminalize drug club, coming from “Down Under.”
A powerful Think-tank – Australia 21 – which consists out of former police deputies, college professors, and backed by former prime ministers from both sides of the Australian aisle, brainstormed on how to approach their drug problem.
As reported by The Guardian, the former Labor Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, and the former Liberal Victoria premier, Jeff Kennett, launched the Australia 21 report on Monday, which calls for an end to the criminalization of drug users.
The report, entitled “Can Australia Respond to Drugs More Effectively and Safely,” is the result of a day-long roundtable of 17 experts, practitioners, retired judges, prosecutors, senior police, prison and parole administrators, drug law researchers and advocates, which was held at the University of Sydney in September 2015 to consider ways in which Australia could develop safer and more effective policies in relation to illicit drugs.
The report includes 13 recommendations on how the illicit drug laws should reform ed. All seen from the perspective of the individual drug consumer. The new reforms argue that instead of penalizing the consumer, they should be nudged into choosing otherwise. Another proposal is to eliminate the black market and turning drugs into a ‘white market’ consumption good – possibly after the consultation of a medical professional.
Also, they will address drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice one – as is now the case. They based their shifts on policy in other Western Countries, including the United States.
At the presentation of the study, Jeff Kennett stated that Australia has been fighting the “War on Drugs” all wrong: “There had been no seminal advance in addressing the challenges for 40 to 50 years, with the exception of Sydney’s safe injecting facility”.
Australia & Drugs
These reforms are badly needed. According to The Guardian, the use of Methamphetamines has risen steadily over the past five years. Around 80,000 Australians are arrested yearly for drug-related crimes
Still, the report concluded that some drugs (cocaine, heroin,..) should never be freely available to the consumer.
Even though the proposed reforms are well-intended steps in the right direction, these last remarks will render it useless. Unless all drugs are decriminalized and legalized, the “War on Drugs” will continue and designer drugs ( Remember Flakka ?) will continuingly hit the streets and gangs will make large profits on the underground circuit.