Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Drug reform: Alex Wodak responds to Miranda Devine

In response to an article published in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday 18 April Australia21 Board member Dr Alex Wodak sent its author, Miranda Devine, an email, which read as follows:

Dear Ms Devine,

I note your recent comments:

Into the middle of this social disaster rides the drug legalisation crowd, to make everything much worse.

Pushed along by St Vincent's Hospital's irrepressible Dr Alex Wodak, along with such luminaries as our new Foreign Minister Bob Carr, a think tank called Australia 21 released a report this month urging politicians to decriminalise illegal drugs because the war on drugs has been a failure. The problem is not that the war on drugs has failed, it is that we have surrendered our first line of defence to the criminals. (Daily Telegraph, Sydney 18 April 2012).

I don't expect you to change your views on drug policy.

But you might consider extending some courtesy to those who have a view that is very different from your own.

I have attached the Australia21 report so that you can see that, contrary to your claim of 18 April, the report did not propose a specific policy remedy (such as decriminalisation or legalisation).

The report did support redefining drugs as primarily a health and social issue.

The view that the war on drugs has failed is now widespread.

Many others have said this before Australia21.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority said this in 1989 in their report Drugs, Crime and Society.

Over the past two decades in Australia we have devoted increased resources to drug law enforcement, we have increased the penalties for drug trafficking and we have accepted increasing inroads on our civil liberties as part of the battle to curb the drug trade. All the evidence shows, however, not only that our law enforcement agencies have not succeeded in preventing the supply of illegal drugs to Australian markets but that it is unrealistic to expect them to do so.

I thought you might be interested in some recent comments on the comprehensive failure of the War on Drugs.

Many of the following quotes are from conservative commentators - because conservatives have been more vocal about the need for drug law reform.

Mr Mick Palmer, former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (during the 'Tough on Drugs' period) said at the launch of the Australia21 report (April 3), that 'the police are better resourced than ever, better trained than ever, more effective than ever and they still don't make any difference [to drug trafficking].

LEAP is an organisation of retired and serving drug law enforcement officials who believe that the War on Drugs has been lost.

Prime Minister Steve Harper of Canada said on 15 April (see here)

What I think everybody believes is that the current approach is not working. But it is not clear what we should do.

The article (below) from quotes President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala extensively. Earlier in his career, Otto Perez Molina was in charge of drug law enforcement for Guatemala.

The following quotes are from Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman:

Who would believe that a democratic government would pursue for eight decades a failed policy that produced tens of millions of victims and trillions of dollars of illicit profits for drug dealers; cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars; increased crime and destroyed inner cities; fostered wide-spread corruption and violations of human rights - and all with no success in achieving the
stated and unattainable objective of a drug-free America.

If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel.

Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault.

Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and nonusers alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

Can any policy, however high minded, be moral if it leads to corruption, imprisons so many, has so racist effect that it destroys our inner cities, wreaks havoc on misguided and vulnerable individuals and brings death and destruction to foreign countries.

Many, especially the young, are not dissuaded by the bullets that fly so freely in disputes between competing drug dealers; bullets that fly only because dealing drugs is illegal. Al Capone epitomizes our earlier attempt at Prohibition; the Crips and Bloods epitomize this one.

The Commissioners of the GLOBAL COMMISSION ON DRUG POLICY include:

Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan
Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico
Cesar Gaviria, former President of Colombia
Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair)
George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece
George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)
Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain
John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States
Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana
Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, President of the International Crisis Group, Canada
Maria Cattaui, Petroplus Holdings Board member, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland
Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru
Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health
Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France
Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board
Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, co-founder of The Elders, United Kingdom
Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs
Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

These Commissioners said:

the global war on drugs has failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies.

-  vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption.

-  its time to end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.

These Commissioners are reputable people of some accomplishment.

The Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge, Former Health Minister in the Howard Federal Government said:

The key message is that we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs and it has failed.

A few days after the launch, Dr Michael Wooldridge appeared on Alan Jones radio programme - Alan Jones agreed with Dr Wooldridge.

David Cameron MP said while Conservative party leader, before becoming Prime Minister of the UK:

Politicians attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator by posturing with tough policies and calling for crackdown after crackdown. Drugs policy has been failing for decades.

The following World Bank report comes to the same conclusion - but over a few hundred pages:

In the 2011 US Gallup poll, the legalisation of marijuana was supported by 50% and opposed by 46%.

Best wishes,

Dr Alex Wodak AM

ARTICLE EXTRACTED from Foreign Policy

There's good news on the drug war: The world knows how to end it -- so why can't the United States figure it out?

America's longest running war -- the one against drugs -- came in for abuse this weekend at the Summit of the Americas. The abuse is deserved. Forty years of increasingly violent efforts to stamp out the drug trade haven't worked. And the blood and treasure lost is on a scale with America's more conventional wars. On the upside, we know that an approach based around treating drugs as a public health issue reaps benefits to both users and the rest of us.

President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala opened the rhetorical offensive against the drug war last week when he wrote that "decades of big arrests and the seizure of tons of drugs" have not stopped "booming" production and consumption. Molina argued that "global drug policy today is based on a false premise: that the global drug markets can be eradicated." Drug abuse, like alcoholism, should be treated as a public health problem, he suggested. We should consider a move towards drug regulation -- including taxation and prohibition of sales to minors. As this weekend's discussion made clear, Molina's statement represents region-wide concern with the business-as-usual strategy towards drugs. Indeed, most of Latin America has already moved towards decriminalization of drug possession in small amounts, and some are considering legalization.

But it isn't just in Latin America that the winds of change are blowing when it comes to drugs policy. Last June, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which included Kofi Annan, three former presidents from Latin America, a prime minister and former president from Europe, former Fed Chair Paul Volker and former Secretary of State George Shultz, concluded much the same thing as Molina. "The global war on drugs has failed," they reported. It is high time to move towards experimentation with "models of legal regulation."

As a domestic policy, a harsh enforcement approach has done little to control drug use, but has done a lot to lock up a growing portion of the U.S. population. Cocaine and opiate prices are about half their 1990 levels in in America today. And 16 percent of American adults have tried cocaine -- that's about four times higher than any other surveyed country in a list that includes Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, France, and Germany. And while criminalization has a limited impact on price and use, it has a significant impact on crime rates. Forty percent of drug arrests in the United States are for the simple possession of marijuana. Nearly half a million people are behind bars in the United States for a drug offense -- that's more than ten times the figure in 1980.

As a result, the United States is spending about $40 billion per year $40 billion per year on the war on drugs -- with three quarters of that expenditure on apprehending and punishing dealers and users. All of those police out there slapping cuffs on folks found with a baggie of Purple Kush aren't watching for drunk drivers or burglars. And drug enforcement is more closely linked with violent crime than drug use. Meanwhile, the cost of lost productivity from jailed citizens is around $39 billion per year. Such sums are considerably higher than the costs of ill-health associated with drug use, suggesting in strict economic terms at least that it isn't drugs -- but drug control policy -- that is the problem. Add in the social effects of mass incarceration (from rape to split families to unemployment to poverty) and the uncertain benefits of the war on drugs become dwarfed by the known costs.

Harsh enforcement hasn't failed as a policy only in the United States, of course. Across countries, analysis by World Bank economists Philip Keefer, Norman Loayaza, and Rodrigo Soares suggests that drug prosecution rates or the number of police in a country has no effect on drug prices.

Conversely, the Global Commission on Drug Policy report compiled evidence suggesting that approaches based on treatment rather than punishment were far more effective in reducing consumption, HIV prevalence, and crime rates among users. For example, Britain and Germany, both of which long ago adopted harm reduction strategies for people injecting drugs -- programs that include needle exchange programs and medication -- see HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs below 5 percent. The United States and Portugal, by contrast, where such strategies were introduced later or only partially, see HIV prevalence among a similar community at above 15 percent.

Again, the global evidence that legalization would increase use is sparse. Use is far more connected with social, environmental, and economic contexts than legal status. Portugal decriminalized drug possession and use ten years ago, and has seen drug use fluctuate at similar rates to countries where possession remains illegal according to the Commission report. Similarly, U.S. states that have decriminalized cannabis possession have not seen greater increases in use than those states where it remained illegal.

But if the war on drugs is a failed domestic policy in the United States, it is also -- particularly as the U.S. population is the world's largest consumer of illicit drugs -- a failed global strategy. And a larger price for that failure is paid abroad. Drug crop eradication programs simply don't work to dry up global supply. They can drive up the local price of a crop -- but that alone is likely only to force a move in production rather than overall reduction. Aggregate coca cultivation in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru was higher in 2007 than in the late 1990s, for example -- despite stepped up eradication programs in all three countries. In turn, this might help explain why multiple, expensive eradication efforts from Colombia to Afghanistan have done little to increase drug prices in Western markets, which reached historic lows in the mid 2000s.

Connected to all this is the fact that farmers are not the ones making big money from the drug trade. The price of one kilo of cocaine at the point of production in Colombia in 2000 was about $650. By the time it reached Miami, that price had risen to $23,000, with a final retail price of closer to $120,000 -- suggesting the point of production price is a little more than half a percentage point of the final price.

Given the low wholesale price, it's not surprising that experience from around the world suggests that given other crop options -- flowers in Thailand, onions in Pakistan, potatoes in Laos -- and the ability to get those crops to a functioning market, farmers will often abandon coca and poppy production for these more profitable sources of revenue. The war on drugs, by creating instability and weakening the operation of those markets, may have the perverse effect of increasing the attractiveness of drug crop production for farmers.

And while eradication doesn't work to reduce supply in rich countries, alongside interdiction efforts it can have catastrophic spillover effects in poor countries. Mexico is spending $9 billion a year to fight drug trafficking, for example, and yet the drug war killed 34,000 people between 2006 and 2010, according to the government. Some 27,000 Colombians died each year during the 1990s as a result of violence fueled by drug cartels. Analysis by Jennifer Holmes and colleagues at the University of Texas suggests that coca cultivation was not related to violence in Colombia between 1999 and 2001 -- but eradication efforts were. Again, economists Oeindrila Dube and Suresh Naidu found that U.S. military aid to Colombia was associated with greater paramilitary violence: A 10 percent increase in U.S. military aid was associated with a 15 percent rise in paramilitary attacks in regions where there was a Colombian army base, compared to other regions.

In fact, thanks to the profitable, violent, criminal oligopolies that are the spinoff of the global war on drugs, developing countries that produce drugs or are on drug trade routes face a risk of descending into narco-kleptocracy. In 2010, the commander of Venezuela's armed forces, the president of Nicaragua, the prime minister of Kosovo, the son of the president of Guinea, and a host of politicians allied with the Burmese junta were all deeply involved in the drug trade according to Moises Naim of the Carnegie Endowment.

Meanwhile, popular attitudes towards drug policy in the United States are finally shifting. For the first time since Gallup started asking the question, the majority of Americans think marijuana use should be legal. And the country already has what might be called a more nuanced approach to other addictive drugs. The U.S. government is happy to conclude trade agreements that actually encourage smoking around the world, for example. And the United States is willing to bear the domestic health costs of tobacco and alcohol use that kill 30 times as many people a year as do illegal drugs. Yes, policies towards cocaine or heroin should be far more constraining than those towards cigarettes or beer, but the rationale for such a completely different approach to one set of substances than the other is threadbare.

Nobody should underestimate the appalling toll of drug addiction -- it ends many lives and ruins many more. Of the 250 million drug users worldwide, the United Nations estimates around 25 million are dependent. The question is, does the current approach towards drug policy work to reduce that toll? And what are the spillover effects of America and Europe's hard line on drugs to other countries? The evidence suggests the policy has failed and that the spillover effects are considerable.

The good news is that a different strategy could turn around the violence and lower the economic, social, and health costs of narcotics. America and Europe should commit to a drug policy based around public health and regulation -- making drug use safer, legal, and rare -- rather than criminalization and paramilitary enforcement. That switch will save money and families at home alongside lives and livelihoods abroad. It is time the world ended its addiction to war as a tool of social control.

Charles Kenny is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, and author, most recently, of Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding and How We Can Improve the World Even More . The Optimist, his column for, runs weekly.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Drugs: Michael Wooldridge talks to Alan Jones

On Wednesday 4 April, the day after the launch of Australia21’s report on illicit drugs, former Howard Government Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge spoke to talk-back radio host Alan Jones.  It is a fascinating conversation – catch it in full here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Regreening Australia

Australia21 is seeking funding for a new project to re-assess the potential and feasibility of a large-scale reforestation and environmental rehabilitation program.

In 1989, CSIRO published Richard Eckersley’s report, “Regreening Australia: The environmental, economic and social benefits of reforestation”, a preliminary investigation into a large national program to “regreen Australia” through massive reforestation and revegetation over a period of 10-20 years. (The full report is available on his website

The main justification for the program was to combat land degradation, regarded as Australia’s most serious environmental problem. However, the report outlined other potential benefits, including mitigating and adapting to climate change; protecting biodiversity; increasing the sustainability and productivity of Australian agriculture; boosting timber resources; building environmental management expertise and innovation; creating many useful jobs; and lifting national morale.

The report attracted a great deal of public, political and professional interest, but was never implemented on the scale envisaged and necessary to realise the benefits. Over 20 years on, there are grounds for re-assessing the report’s recommendations, especially that climate change has become a more widely recognised, serious and urgent problem; the scientific case for reforestation as a means of countering climate change has become stronger; and, in the event of deepening global financial crises, job generation will become an important part of maintaining economic and social stability.

If you would like to know more about this project or you would like to contribute in some way, please contact Richard Eckersley at

Bob Douglas on drug reform

The following opinion piece on drug reform by Australia21 Director and founding Chairman, Professor Bob Douglas (founding head of the Australian National University’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Public Health) was published in today’s Canberra Times (see here):

Is the Portuguese approach the answer Australia is looking for, BOB DOUGLAS asks

Since the launch of the Australia21 report on illicit drugs last week, a healthy debate has begun across Australia about the likely costs and benefits of doing away with prohibition and either legalising or at least decriminalising the use and possession of all drugs. Influential talkback host Alan Jones - in an interview with Michael Wooldridge, the former health minister in the Howard government - made it clear that he has changed his mind since 1997, when he played a key role in supporting John Howard's switch to a ''tough on drugs'' approach. Jones now supports the decriminalisation of all drugs.

Julia Gillard has shown an understandable disinclination to reopen debate on this contentious issue, but her Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, has said she is willing to consider proposals for change, while insisting that a policy change will be a high bar to jump. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Bob Carr, whose brother died from a heroin overdose, has been a willing participant in the debate about alternatives to what he sees as a wasteful use of police resources and the needless criminalisation of drug-taking behaviour. If we are to change direction, Carr will be an important player in the growing international debate, which has been influenced for decades, by treaties that have been dominated by US influence and intransigence.
Australia is not alone in needing to find a better way. The presidents of South American countries are meeting in Columbia this week and, led by President Otto Molina of Guatemala, are expected to place strong pressures on the United States to desist from its disastrously failed war on drugs and explore new ways of tackling the ''drug problem''.

So what exactly is the problem? Why do we differentiate heroin from nicotine and cannabis from alcohol? Why do we pass responsibility for the supply and distribution of some recreational drugs to criminal gangs and leave others in the hands of government?

It all dates back over 100 years, when American missionaries in China objected to the unethical way British interests were forcing opium on to the Chinese to balance their trade deficit and indirectly encouraging opium addiction. A series of international treaties evolved to limit the trade in opiates.

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared a ''war on drugs'' to tackle the growing problem of heroin and cocaine addiction in the US. This proved to be an electoral asset for him and law enforcement has been used to maintain fear and demonisation of drug users by politicians ever since. Massive resources were invested in efforts to stamp out the supply of these drugs. Prohibition, a strategy that had failed disastrously in efforts to suppress the supply of alcohol in the 1930's again became US policy and resulted in a thriving prison industry with little impact on the continuing demand for supplies of a range of recreational drugs. The black market flourished and the greater the expenditures on drug law enforcement, greater was the black market value of the illicit drugs. Criminal gangs have flourished on the proceeds and have seriously disrupted the economies of countries bordering the US in their efforts to supply the apparently insatiable demands of US drug users. In turn, the US sends huge numbers of its citizens to jail, very often for drug-related crimes.

Most Australians are understandably concerned that if we roll back our prohibition laws more, rather than less young people will become hooked on addictive drugs. The experience from Portugal, which decriminalised the possession and use of personal supplies of all drugs in 2001 suggests the opposite. The law there does not make criminals of those who possess drugs for personal use but continues to prosecute the black marketeers. But it places substantial resources into dissuasion of use and treatment of users.

Australia21 is planning new discussions among Australian stakeholders about how the Portuguese approach could most usefully be applied here. No-one wants to make the problem worse but it will certainly get worse if we continue to leave it to the drug barons.

Bob Douglas is a Director of Australia21 and co-authored the report of the January Roundtable of eminent Australians entitled Prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen. The report can be downloaded from the website, where donations to promote this work can be lodged.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Crikey on the Australia21 drug report

The Thursday 5 April edition of Crikey had in introductory editorial that is very much appreciated by my colleagues and me at Australia21. Here it is in full:

Dear Sole Subscriber,
One of the more depressing aspects of the world of politics is that it's much easier to speak your mind after you've left it (the world of politics that is, not your mind, but you may have done that by then too.) Based on everything they've seen and learnt, an ex-politician has a real shot at putting together some pretty decent policy, especially since they're no longer required to sell it to the public.

Which is why the views of the group behind this week's Australia21 discussion paper on the likely costs and benefits of a change in Australia's illicit drugs policy deserve to be listened to. The one-day round-table discussion in January that lead to the group's report included 24 former senior state and federal politicians, experts in drug policy and public health, legal and former law enforcement officers.

The involvement of now Foreign Minister Bob Carr added an extra frisson to the whole project. Of course, he came on board in the lost years spent locked in his personal library between gigs as the NSW premier and now a front and centre member of cabinet, but he hasn't exactly disowned his involvement for the sake of potential political delicacy. Carr speaks from the experience of a former premier and someone who lost a younger brother to heroin. He's been on the media trail all week talking up the report, despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard's firm view that "... we want to make sure we are supporting people to get treatment options and we are getting our police to do what they rightly should be doing, which is policing our laws on drugs".

Understand my position: I don’t apologise for going after the Mr Bigs. I don’t apologise for having a prohibition regime. But I think at this end of the scale, when it comes to personal use of ecstasy or marijuana, the best use of police time is not standing outside a nightclub or wandering around a train station with sniffer dogs. Those people aren’t doing any harm except, arguably, to themselves.

Many commentators have sniggered at Bob's blog, and after his recent PNG moment took great delight in telling him the foreign ministry was a little more serious than posting his latest thought bubble on a WordPress platform. But if Carr persists, perhaps we can expect more candid, pragmatic observations from a politician. Makes you giddier than popping the e-drug while loitering down at your local train station ...

Thank you, Crikey.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mark Colvin interviews Nick Cowdery on Drug Reform

On ABC Local Radio on the evening of 2 April 2012, ahead of today’s launch of Australia21’s report on illicit drugs policy, PM host Mark Colvin interviewed former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC on the need for drug reform.

In his opening response Nick said:

NICK COWDERY: I'm not advocating in respect of any drugs that they should simply be available to anybody who wants them, certainly not. The prongs of the approach that I would hope we would move towards - and it will not happen quickly, it will not happen overnight and it may not happen in relation to all drugs - but what I would like to see is the legalisation, the regulation - so it's not just supermarket stuff - the control and the taxation of drugs. Much as we do with alcohol and nicotine at present.

We know that they cause us a lot of trouble. But because they're out in the open and because the Government can put controls around the supply and consumption of those drugs - alcohol and nicotine - we can reduce the harms that they cause.

He then responded to a question from Mark about the Portuguese experience of decriminalisation.

Read the full transcript of the interview here.

Australia21 Report on Drug Law Reform Launched

Australia21’s report of its 31 January roundtable on drug law reform, entitled The Prohibition of Illicit Drugs is Killing and Criminalising our Children, and We Are Letting it Happen, was launched in Parliament House, Canberra today.

In launching the report, former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC said:

Paul Barratt of Australia21 has spoken of that organisation and of the background to this event.
This report and the events leading to it have been spurred by re-evaluations made here and internationally of our public approach to what are described as illicit drugs.

It is now generally accepted that the so-called “war on drugs”, after more than 40 years, has comprehensively failed. It is now widely accepted that an approach of that kind is, in fact, doomed to fail. Prohibition creates more harms on top of those that drugs can cause – harms in health and social areas, by way of increased criminal activity and corruption in law enforcement.

If we are genuinely concerned to deal more effectively with drugs and to minimise the harms that are caused, we need to move away from the prohibition model. But to where? It was for that reason – to explore that question – that Australia21 convened the high level roundtable discussion in January which led to this report.

I took part in the discussion as a former prosecutor. In my involvement in criminal legal practice for over 40 years I have seen firsthand, as I have both prosecuted and defended in drug cases of all kinds, the impotence of the criminal law in dealing with what is primarily a health and social issue. More than impotence, in fact – the counterproductiveness of the criminal law in such a central role.

The argument for change, as I see it, is partly based on rational economics. Prohibition means that the market in drugs must be black. Suppliers therefore take on extra risk and charge for it. If they survive the risk, their profits are high. That provides funds for the corruption of law enforcement. It generates turf wars. Consumers must pay grossly inflated prices for their product. Secondary crime is committed to steal the price. Product quality and quantity are unregulated and the circumstances of consumption are underground. Sickness and death can and do follow. In prisons drug users continue to use and are back in the market when released. Still there is demand. And while there is demand, there will be supply.

How can we cope with the demand (and preferably reduce it), reduce harm to consumers and eliminate the harms of crime and corruption? By legalising all drugs, regulating, controlling and taxing them. There will still be a peripheral role for the criminal law, I expect, dealing with bootleggers.

However, we cannot get to that point overnight and there may well be some trial and error along the way. This report urges all of us to destigmatise the whole discussion of drug law policy – to bring it out in the open and to search for better ways than we presently have to address these issues. It is not a blueprint (although such do exist); it is not a set of detailed policy recommendations. Rather it identifies the problem and urges us all to consider – openly – the benefits and costs of moving away from prohibition. Maybe by degrees (such as decriminalisation in Portugal over a decade ago) – maybe by differential treatment of particular drugs; maybe by differential timing in our steps forward. But we must have the conversation and the politicians must become involved. We cannot afford to do otherwise, financially or morally.

Download a copy of the report here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mick Palmer joins the Board of Australia21

Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer has joined the Board of Australia21.

Mick is a 33 year career police officer with extensive experience in police leadership and reform in community, national and international policing.  He served as Commissioner of the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Service agency from 1988-1994 and as Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), from 1994 until March 2001. 

Since retiring from policing in 2001 Mick has conducted a range of government inquiries and re-views, including the inquiry into the immigration detention of Cornelia Rau.  He is currently the Australian Federal Government’s Inspector of Transport Security with responsibility to inquire into serious transport security matters and offshore security matters.  He is currently a member of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia.

Alex Wodak joins the Board of Australia21

Dr Alex Wodak AM has joined the Board of Australia21.

Alex has been Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent’s Hospital since 1982.

Working with colleagues, Dr Wodak helped to establish the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (1987), the NSW Users AIDS Association (NUAA) (1989), the Australian Society of HIV Medicine (ASHM) (1989) and, when both required civil disobedience, Australia’s first needle syringe programme (1986) and first medically supervised injecting centre (1999). Dr Wodak is President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and was President of the International Harm Reduction Association (1996-2004). He often works in developing countries on HIV control among injecting drug users.