Following yesterday’s release of the Community Legal Centres’ Report into drug treatment and law reform, the Greens are calling for a drug law reform package. We need to treat personal drug use through a public health lens, instead of with a criminal response.
The “war on drugs” has been an epic failure. It has failed to cut the supply or demand for drugs, and has criminalised large numbers of non-violent offenders for their personal drug use.
It’s well past time we rethink our approach.
Tasmania needs to reorient resources towards preventing addiction through early intervention, education, drug treatment programs, court mandated diversions, and decriminalisation of personal drug use.
Personal drug users should be directed into health care, rather than the courts. The focus of law enforcement should be on criminals trafficking or manufacturing drugs, not on users.
The ‘Case for a Health Focused Response to Drug Use in Tasmania’s Legal System’ report by Community Legal Centres Tasmania is the latest piece of strong evidence a different approach is needed. Current drug laws are doing more harm than good to individuals, their families, and ultimately all Tasmanians.
Increasingly, Tasmanians understand this approach doesn’t reduce levels of illicit drug use, prevent harm to individual users, or keep the community safer from violence and property crime. If Labor and the Liberals continue to refuse to change their hopeless crusade, more Tasmanians will suffer.
Last year, 80 per cent of Tasmania’s 1100 arrests for drug-related offences were for personal drug use. That’s nearly 900 Tasmanians who have been needlessly criminalised.
The decriminalisation of drugs for personal use is tried and tested policy in many regions around the world, including in the US where the ‘war on drugs’ began.
Portugal’s laws, now in their 16th year, provide compelling evidence about the benefits of taking a health approach, rather than a law enforcement one. Since they decriminalised drugs for personal use, rates of drug use in young people and hard drug users has dropped.
Former Chief Magistrate, Michael Hill, yesterday encouraged consideration of the comprehensive case that has been made for the benefits of a health-based response to drug use. In their dismissal of the Community Legal Centres’ report – before it had even been released – the Liberals let down Tasmanians and ignored the experts.
People at the frontline are calling for decriminalisation of personal drug use, and an investment in prevention, early intervention, education and treatment. It reduces violent crimes, drug-related deaths and disease, and costs to the hospital and prison system.
The Liberals seem more concerned with maintaining a political “tough on drugs” line, than looking after the health of Tasmanians. To dismiss this research is negligent and irresponsible.
Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens’ Health spokesperson