Monday, April 9, 2012

Top cops, politicians say the war on narcotics has failed

UPDATE: PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says she does not support decriminalising drugs, despite a report suggesting the controversial step be considered.

A new report, released today, concedes that the war on drugs has failed and calls for a national debate on the controversial step of decriminalising them.

The report urges politicians to face the taboo subject and says a massive re-think is needed to tackle the illegal drug trade that allows organised crime to flourish and is "killing our children".

The report draws on the views of high-profile Australians and health experts.

Its verdict is that the tough law and order approach is doing more harm than good.

Ms Gillard said policing and drug treatment were the answers to combating the drug trade.

"I'm not in favour of decriminalisation of any of our drug laws,'' she said.

"We want to keep on supporting people who need our help to break out of a cycle of addiction.

"And we need to keep policing so that we are tackling those who are seeking to make a profit out of what really is a trade in incredible misery.''

Premier Ted Baillieu said his Government would make no move towards the decriminalisation of drugs.

I think everybody on this issue always is interested in anything which will reduce the use of drugs,” Mr Baillieu said today.

“Certainly as far as we’re concerned, we have no intention of decriminalising the use of drugs.

“We think there is a huge downside to the use of drugs, mental health and a range of other areas. We will continue with the approach we have been taking.

“We will continue to campaign against the use of drugs.”

Charlie Bezzina: We need drastic steps to beat drugs

The argument for decriminalisation won widespread support this morning.

Australian Drug Foundation CEO John Rogerson said prohibition had resulted in stigmatising drug users, making it a legal rather than a health issue.

“Our job as a society is to stop stigmatising people who use drugs and give them the support they need to seek treatment, and give their families support,” Mr Rogerson said.

He said there was “no better example” of the failure of prohibition than the decline of disgraced footballer Ben Cousins.

“I think the challenge for us as a community is, how do we address this issue that hasn’t worked?” he said.

“We certainly need to look at how we decriminalise drugs and try some approaches to see if they work.”

He pointed to the Portuguese system as an example of successful discrimination, whereby drug dealers were criminally punished but users were put through rehabilitation.

“The point to make around this is its still tough on those supplying drugs,” he said.

The Law Institute of Victoria said it supported a review of laws as the current system wasn't working.

CEO Michael Holcroft said he wanted to see the Victorian Law Reform Commission investigate the pros and cons of decriminalisation.

"We start off with the fundamental principal that we don’t want to encourage more people to try drugs, but what we’ve got at moment doesn’t seem to be really working that well," Mr Holcroft said.

"The Law Institute of Victoria would certainly support a therapeutic look at drug use but we wouldn’t be at the stage where we could support any lesser penalties as far as trafficking and distribution goes."

Put together by not-for-profit think-tank Australia21, the report includes the views of former federal law enforcement officers, health ministers, and premiers.

Australia21 stops short of directly backing decriminalisation but one former top prosecutor says in the report drugs should be legalised and taxed to control use.

Former Victorian homicide detective and drug squad member Charlie Bezzina also backed decriminalisation.

And Tony Trimingham, whose son Damien, 28, died of a heroin overdose, said drugs should not only be decriminalised, but regulated in a similar way to tobacco.

“I think we need to stop pouring all those millions into supply reduction, which is customs, prison and the police, and use that money more affectively, use that for education and create another revenue stream through taxing drugs," he said.

“It’s a waste of money when every sniffer dog costs $180,000 a year – it picks up 2 or 3 people…to me that’s a totally waste of time and money.

“It targets the wrong people and makes victims of people who apart from smoking the odd joint are law abiding citizens."

Mr Trimingham established Family Drug Support after Damien’s death in 1997.

“Its 15 yrs now since my son died of a heroin overdose. Before that I had the trauma of discovering he was using it,” he said.

“The worst possible thing happened to me, and going through the grieving process and realising there are an awful lot of other families affected.”

Mr Trimingham said countries such as Spain and Portugal had effective models of decriminalization.

“I know that those places haven’t collapsed by changing their policies,” he said.

The Punch: War on drugs just a political smokescreen

The Australia21 report - called The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are letting it happen - was formulated after a panel of Australians, including now-Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, former Howard government health minister Michael Wooldridge and former Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer, met in January to discuss a global report on the ''war on drugs'' and its failures.

The report is understood to say prohibition has increased the problems drugs cause by driving it underground.

The group decided drug dependence and use should be managed within health and education systems, not law enforcement.

It is understood there were a mix of views around the table, but the consensus was that a tough "law and order" approach had failed.

Senator Carr today stood by the report's recommendations, arguing that police targeting marijuana users could be a waste of resources.

He said his stance on the drug prohibition debate hadn’t changed since he was drafted into the Federal Cabinet.

“I believed it then, I believe it now. I think it’s a mater of matching the seriousness of the offence, which is really a victimless crime, with where you want to have your police resources,” he told Channel Nine's Today this morning.

“As Premier I introduced a medically supervised injecting room because I thought that if people were struggling with a heroin addiction, the least we could do is to see if they had clean needles and that they had a place to go where medical assistance would be available if something went wrong, and where we could persuade them to get off the wretched addictive white substance - and that worked. There’s no doubt that that medically supervised injecting room saved lives, and it got people off heroin.

"But I found it frustrating that the police were so enthusiastic to have sniffer dogs at railway stations during one phase, when I thought they would be far better off putting those resources into beating crime, instead of pursuing people who were making a mistake, in my view, in having quantities of marijuana in their office bags."

But he stopped short of arguing illicit drugs should be decriminalised, saying that a debate was a necessary step forward.

“I think it’s very difficult to imagine a situation where drugs are legalised, I don’t know how that would work. It would result in significantly increased use of drugs, there’s no doubt about that to me, in my mind, and people are using such a variety of drugs today that legalisation would be a huge step," he said.

“But I just think we can think intelligently about marijuana use for people who are dying and want some pain relief, and we can think intelligently about medically supervised injecting rooms where there’s a need for it, and we can think intelligently about where police are best deployed raiding night clubs to find ecstasy or standing at railway stations with sniffer dogs to catch someone with marijuana.

“I don’t like these drugs. I believe a healthy lifestyle is a better way to devote your days, but it’s a matter of police resources and whether all the fuss is justified."

Former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery is quoted in the report as being "strongly in favour of legalising, regulating, controlling and taxing all drugs", but he did not advocate making all drugs available to "anybody wanting them".

Dr Wooldridge said he was not pushing for legalisation of drugs, but the "war on drugs" approach had failed.

"It's possibly the least successful war we have fought in the past 40 years," he said. 3 Apr 2012

Also, speed cameras have not deterred speeding motorists so all forms of speed control and subsequent fines should also be abolished.

The taxation department has worked out that it can make more money taxing drugs than the authorities fighting against drugs making it onto the streets.

A drugged out society would be of benefit to the authorities, as their fraudulent rule would go unnoticed.

Legalising drugs would also create many more business opportunities (e.g. drug counselling centres, etc) in which the government would rape more tax paying dollars.

The drug industry in Australia is worth an estimated $1,200,000,000 per month.

A lot of political backing, and corrupt cops can be bought from this amount of money.

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