Australian Lawyers Alliance: drug policy reform in Australia

Greg Barns, National Criminal Justice Spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, calls for evidence-led cannabis policy reform

One of the most depressing aspects of the futile war on drugs in Australia is that it has slowed advances in research into the therapeutic and health benefits of cannabis use. An urgently needed change in attitude towards drugs in Australia could have huge health advantages and assist the many people who would benefit immediately from legal, less expensive and more readily available access to cannabis that is subject to quality control. Greg Barns, National Criminal Justice Spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance tells us more.

In recent years there have been some small steps taken towards an improved approach to drug policy in some parts of Australia. However, as someone who has been advocating for reform for more than 20 years, progress is still not occurring nearly fast enough.

Current Australian cannabis policy

Unfortunately, in Australia we continually see research and evidence overwhelmingly ignored in favour of irrationality and prejudice when making decisions about the use and accessibility of cannabis.

For many years now, the Australian Lawyers Alliance has been arguing that the possession and use of cannabis should be decriminalised at the very least, and preferably legalised, in Australia. It is evident that decriminalising or legalising drugs does not increase use but instead allows harm minimisation policies to be put in place that results in better outcomes for users.

Every year in our courts millions of dollars are spent on the pointless prosecution of drug users, including those who use cannabis, clogging our court systems and fuelling the need for governments to build prisons that would be otherwise unnecessary if we recognised that cannabis, and other drugs for that matter, are less harmful than alcohol and nicotine.

Every day in our courts magistrates and judges are forced to use tired and irrelevant rhetoric about ‘the evils of illicit drugs’ when they, along with everyone else in the courtroom, know that laws in this area are failing monumentally. As the Economist has rightly observed, ‘in the war on drugs there are no wins, only pyrrhic victories.’ Or, as a senior judge once told me: ‘every time I sentence a drug trafficker I automatically create a vacancy in the market.’

The criminal justice system carries the major burden of drug policy in Australia. Most taxpayer dollars deployed for drug policy go to law enforcement, not to health or treatment. This law enforcement model also disproportionately targets users, and the imprisonment of users – along with the imposition of non-custodial sanctions like fines – are proven to be ineffective at treating addiction.

Read the full article at MedicalCannabisNetwork



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