Australia’s Failed Drug Policy – Prohibition is Killing and Criminalising Our Children

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We can’t possibly be happy with the results that we are achieving with our current illicit drug policy.

As a Greendorphin reader, you most likely agree with the above statement, however, you might be a little surprised that these words are directly quoted from Mick Palmer, a former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

Mr. Palmer spent 33 years as a police professional and 20 of those as an operational police officer. He started off with a pretty hard attitude towards drugs, however, his view has changed over the years of his service.

Mr. Palmer is currently the Deputy Chair of Australia21, an independent public policy-focused think tank. A very similar organization to the Canadian Institute of Advance Research.

Australia21 held a full-day roundtable discussion back in 2015. It was chaired by Mr. Palmer and titled “Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?”

The 17 participants included senior police, prison and parole administrators, retired judges as well as prosecutors.

The report released from the roundtable pointed out the obvious failure of the war on drugs and put forward thirteen recommendations for illicit drug law reform.

These recommendations all based on common sense, smart and compassionate approach. Instead of being tough on drugs and waste a lot of resources, Australia should get smart on drugs.

One of the major takeaway from the report was that Australian policy should be based on “minimisation of harm to those who chose to use psychoactive drugs and those around them…”

The report also suggests to regulate and where possible tax illicit drugs, starting with the ones, that are “known to do the least harm and are least contentious.”

That obviously means Cannabis and mushrooms first, as those are the safest drugs, actually safer than alcohol.  

Mr. Palmer writes in the report “Decriminalising the possession and cultivation of small amounts of Cannabis in South Australia, the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) and the NT (Northern Territory) have had little or no adverse impact on rates of Cannabis use. These initiatives should be constructively reviewed and considered for extension.”

Last night, Mr. Palmer was speaking in Brisbane at an event, called “Australia’s Failed Drugs Policy” delivering the below speech.

The damage to society directly caused by the war on drugs is so obvious that the message is coming from every direction.

Also present at the event, two other participants of the ‘Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?’ roundtable, Keith Hamburger, and Professor Desmond Manderson.

Keith Hamburger is a former Director General of QLD Corrective Services Commission. During his career, Mr. Hamburger has been involved with corrective services for about 40 years.

In his speech, Mr. Hamburger spoke about our very high imprisonment rate here in Australia, with the Northern Territory being the worst imprisoner not only in Australia but one of the worst in the whole world.

I found it very interesting what he said about the prison population. They can be divided into 2 broad groups. There are those that are very serious offenders, dangerous people that really need to be in jail to ensure public safety. This group is not the majority of the prisoners, but only about one-third Mr. Hamburger said.

The great majority of the people should really not be in prison at all. Most of them are coming from disadvantaged circumstances and often end up in jail for drug-related offenses.

Some of our statistics are shocking, for example about 34% of the prison population in the state of Queensland are Aboriginal people, while they are only 3% of the state’s population.

From the decade between 2006 and 2016, our prison population here in Queensland has gone up by 90%, all due to ‘getting tough on crime’.

It is surely worth watching Mr. Hamburger’s short presentation below:

The third and final presenter of the night event was Professor Desmond Manderson, author of From Mr. Sin to Mr. Big: A history of Australian drug laws. Professor Manderson is a leader in interdisciplinary scholarship in law and humanities and among all things, a talented and passionate speaker.

Professor Manderson talks about the symbolic and psychological meaning of drug laws.

“The real question is not whether the drug prohibition regime has failed miserably. The jury is no longer out on that. More information and more rational argument are not needed. The real question is rather why there is still such resistance to change.”

The professor was wondering how many more reports it will take to act on them. The failure of the prohibition has been obvious not only from the Australia21 report but from reports done around the world in the last 5 decades or more.

It is definitely worth watching Professor Manderson’s passionate presentation.

A great event in the right direction with fantastic people in Brisbane last night and hopefully the tides are turning and the failed drug prohibition won’t be damaging our society much longer.

John Jiggens

The discussion forum on the drug law reform to support the decriminalisation of the personal possession and use of all drugs was jointly organised and sponsored by The Kurilpa Citizen (John Jiggens) and the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL).

Australia’s Failed Drug Policy - Prohibition is Killing and Criminalising Our Children

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