POLICY NOT WORKING: Despite the laws in place the buying, selling and using of illegal drugs is not slowing down and still costing lives.
POLICY NOT WORKING: Despite the laws in place the buying, selling and using of illegal drugs is not slowing down and still costing lives. Kelly Butterworth

The war on drugs is a losing battle

HOW satisfied do you feel when you see a big drug bust on the nightly news? Wow, we've finally defeated those drug barons. It's the end of illicit drug use as we know it, hooray!

Of course that's rubbish. At best it probably generates a few seconds of "good job boys" before you go back to your dinner. A blaise response like that makes sense because going on history, it's just another boatload of junk in a sea of illegal substances out there.

For all its good intentions, the legislation in place to tackle illegal drugs only seem to be making things worse.

That's because there is no end to it and believing "the law" will eventually catch up with all the bad guys one day belongs in some Charles Bronson movie.

It's time to face the fact that people are always going to want drugs, including the illegal ones, which means there will always be a market for it, and no amount of taxpayer-funded policing will even put a dent in it, let alone stop it completely.

What may help alleviate the illegal drug problem is changing its culture completely. But first we have to admit the current laws and the way we respond to drug use in society isn't working or helpful as a long term solution.

Imagine if these illegal drugs, starting with the garden varieties like cannabis and working through to the more sinister like ice, were decriminalised for users and issued in a controlled environment rather than by dealers.

These drugs would be made to pharmaceutical standards rather than by shonky backyard operators creating a white market to water down the big black one already in existence. Taxes are paid, the revenue perhaps invested back into drug counselling to get to the root of why people use drugs in the first place.

A recent Thinktank report proposes this line of thinking rather than our current plan of attack which punishes users (who are not one size fits all), confiscate drugs using limited police resources (which just increases demand and price) and try to catch and prosecute those sneaky dealers (whose place is swiftly taken by another enterprising one if busted).

The prospect of decriminalising hard drugs scares people because the first thought is that now EVERYONE will start taking them. Who your grandma? Your eight-year-old nephew? It's not like they are going to be sold in vending machines on every street corner, that kinda happens now but you just don't see it.

It also won't lead to more people dropping out of society. Chronic drug users are not the same people as recreational drug users. It's a nuanced world out there so the one-size-fits-all user's approach isn't going to help those people at the bottom of the drug pile.

The heavy hand of the law isn't what they need, it's a helping one.

Chronic drug users are usually products of abusive environments, victims of heinous situations looking for dependency on something that makes them feel good. Legalising drugs won't increase this demographic, they are always going to be there, but changing the way we deal with this will help save their lives through monitoring and support, not through dodgy deals with people who don't give an iota about them.

Recreational drug users are a different breed; working people who might like to party to a different beat than that bottle of bourbon you are allowed to have.

So where's a good starting point for a trial decriminalisation? How about the music festival?

Can you believe in Germany there are 17 drug consumption centres around the country supported by police? Yep, that means they are consumed with trained staff around and if all goes well they can be on their merry way. Pills are also tested for quality beforehand so the 'customer' can be sure the stuff they are taking is "legit" and not laced with some cheap or lethal chemical filler.

Apparently this program is so effective some customers who discover their gear is not top notch or at least what they paid for, are returning it to their dealer to criticise its quality after testing. Almost laughable really.

This is what is happening according to former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer who talked about the Thinktank report in a recent radio interview and how these kinds of trials were having an enormous effect on the drug scene by "changing the environment and minimising the harm".

He said doing something like this would not encourage more people to take drugs or drop out of of society. "Most (chronic drug users) were already unemployed, suffer from mental illness and come from dysfunctional backgrounds. Drugs are symptoms of people looking for relief from that dysfunction."

Mr Palmer said he started his policing with traditional views but later realised what they were doing was futile.

"They can't arrest their way out of this problem."

So head-sand dwelling politicans and members of society, what's it going to take to consider the advice from people like former police commissioners and the Thinktank report and start seriously looking at what we want our drug scene to look like in 10, 20, 50 years?

You can see it's not just the looney lefties who want to see change. Even blind drunk Freddy can see it's not working. So too can former premiers from both camps, Jeff Kennett and Bob Carr.

"What we've been doing for 30 years hasn't worked... the conversations are getting tired, something needs to change. We need a champion to articulate a case for legalisation and turn the report into constructive positive outcomes," Mr Kennett said.

Throw in the support of a former supreme court judge and you have to wonder why politicians and society continue to keep going down the same dysfunctional path.

Is it because our idea of solving it is to just carry on arresting the odd drug dealer and festival-goer and let nature take its course on the 'useless junkie'? And the politicians just tow that line.

What a rethinking of the laws will do is ensure young people, your children, their friends, and people who like to party at the weekends don't pay the ultimate price because we want to pretend it's only chronic users who overdose on illegal drugs and stopping drugs is down the police and only the police.

Good luck with that.

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