Australian Drug Law Reform News

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War on Drugs debate

Be sure to tune in:

Misha Glenny Journalist and author of bestseller McMafia: Seriously Organised Crime
Geoffrey Robertson QC Leading human rights lawyer


Antonio Maria Costa Former Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Eliot Spitzer Former governor of New York, lawyer and political commentator

The decriminalisation (or even legalisation) of drugs by Chris Berg

A few excerpts from Chris Berg’s great article on drug policy:

The decriminalisation (or even legalisation) of drugs by Chris Berg.

It doesn’t take more than a moment of thought to recognise that the rulings on which drugs are legal or illegal are governed by no particular logic.

No theory from medicine or philosophy or psychology demands alcohol, tobacco and caffeine must be legal while marijuana, cocaine, and heroin must be prohibited.


Whether a drug is illegal is nothing more than an accident of history. Drug laws were not written dispassionately by a panel of the best medical and ethical minds in the world. The laws bear no relation to the damage those drugs could cause or their danger to society – they were not written to minimise harm or protect health.

Quite the opposite: the current schedule of drugs in the Western world has been driven by politics, expediency, prejudice, and sometimes outright racism.


But the biggest cultural barrier to such reform is the current status illegal drugs have. In the sort of circular reasoning that only popular discourse can manage, the prohibition of drugs is mostly justified by their pre-existing legal status. Why are certain drugs prohibited? Because they are illicit drugs.

But that status has been set by politics and moral panics, not dispassionate evidence-based risk assessments. Drug prohibition carries the legacy of the ugly politics of the past. Once we realise that, we may start to rethink the justice of a war that is, in truth, not against drugs, but against drug users.

Methadone in Afghanistan

Injecting drug users in Afghanistan (and around the world) are routinely denied access to opioid substitution therapy and are regular victims of police brutality and corruption. Their lives are characterised by extreme poverty, imprisonment, homelessness and hopelessness. The injustices they face are often perpetrated in the name of, and magnified by, misguided anti-drug policies.

A video which documents the harm reduction efforts in Afghanistan can be found below (you may need to watch in fullscreen mode to read the subtitles):

The Prague Declaration

Some wise words from the Prague Declaration.

A drug-free world – or a drug-free city – is an unrealistic idea and a harmful concept if set as an ultimate goal, just like other utopias that have been set as aims in history. Substances with psychotropic effects are older than mankind and are here to stay, with all their negative as well as positive aspects. However, it is beneficial and realistic to aim to diminish the harms related to drug trafficking and use as much as possible – inter alia by reducing the non-medical consumption of drugs and thus the total volume of related risks by means of prevention, treatment, and regulation.

Canadians look to quit drug war

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition have released a concise paper on the failure of chemical prohibition – the use of criminal law to thwart the sale, distribution and use of certain psychoactive substances.

A link to the report can be found here.

According to a press release, the work of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition has been endorsed by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin; a member of the Conservative Party of Canada.

There is a growing awareness among Conservatives that drug prohibition has failed.

Continuing to fund a failing policy is not the conservative thing to do.

Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing

The National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) at Flinders University have produced a rather interesting fact sheet on workplace drug and alcohol testing.

Here is an excerpt:

Does workplace testing improve workplace safety?

Evidence is inconclusive regarding the efficacy of drug testing in reducing workplace accidents and injuries. While some studies suggest that testing can reduce injury and accident rates, more rigorous studies indicate testing has only a small effect or no effect at all. Claims that workplace testing can substantially reduce workplace injuries, accidents and compensation claims are not supported by the available research evidence.

I have a number of concerns about workplace drug testing:

1. That a policy of employee drug testing may unintentionally mark satisfactory employees for punishment. In such cases, urine testing may identify model employees for disciplinary action despite their appearance, performance or behaviour in the workplace being no different to that of other employees.

2. If drug use typically caused employees to perform in a manner that was risky, drug testing would be unnecessary; a negligent worker can be disciplined regardless of their drug use.

3. The mere presence of residual drug metabolites in an employees biological matter in many instances fails to accurately reflect drug related impairment. How does identifying the presence of residual metabolites in unimpaired employees reduce risk in the workplace?

4. The consumption of other substances, such as paint, petrol, glue and gas, may also exacerbate risks in the workplace. Why are alcohol and other specific non-prescription drugs singled out?

The next time your employer asks you to pee in a cup, ask them what evidence they’re using to justify the test. Better yet, print the fact sheet and distribute it among your co-workers.

Note that (as the fact sheet points out) testing can be conducted “only after informed consent is given by the employee”.

A more comprehensive review of the evidence can be found here.

Minister for Health comments on heroin use in Australia

Australian Government Minister for Health explains heroin use in Australia. The number of heroin overdoses, cases of HIV and Hepatitis C have risen dramatically since the policy of drug prohibition was adopted.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald – Feb 3, 1949

Follow this link for a historical account of heroin prohibition in Australia.