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The War on Drugs has failed – now what?

It’s official – the so-called War on Drugs has failed. A report released by thinktank Australia21 in parliament today makes it clear that not only has it failed miserably, but that political elites around…

A detective displays seized methamphetamine and cash from a raid in February 2012 that involved an international drug ring. AAP image/Cortlan Bennett

It’s official – the so-called War on Drugs has failed. A report released by thinktank Australia21 in parliament today makes it clear that not only has it failed miserably, but that political elites around the world have known this for a long time.

If, however, the aim of the War on Drugs was to create a dynamic and vigorous black market, and provide an ever-expanding variety of drugs of increasing purity at lower and lower prices while enriching organised crime, bikie gangs and corrupt police, then drug prohibition has been an overwhelming success.

Whose problem is this?

Very interesting, but not your problem? Think about that again. If you have sons and daughters, brothers or sisters or nephews and nieces, then this is your problem. If you own property, pay insurance on your property and have expensive alarms, then this is also your problem.

Canadian forces on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2006. Paul May

If you feel uncomfortable about Australian soldiers in Afghanistan being shot at with guns and bullets paid for from the lucrative proceeds of opium sales, then this is your problem. If the idea that your compatriots dying of AIDS or cancer cannot get some relief from medical cannabis offends you, then this is also your problem.

What drug prohibition has achieved is make a bad problem much worse at great expense. Three-quarters of the funding of measures against illicit drugs is allocated to law enforcement. That is, to customs, police, courts and prisons. About 17% is spent on efforts to reduce demand with 10% going to education campaigns and 7% to treatment. Only 1% is spent on harm reduction, such as needle syringe program.

The rest is spent treating medical complications and miscellaneous costs. This 75: 17: 1 division is always referred to by our politicians as “a balanced approach”.

We don’t have much of an idea about the return on investment for drug law enforcement. But a 1994 RAND Corporation study on cocaine estimated that the return for US citizens on a US$1 investment was 15 cents for eradicating coca plants in South America, 32 cents for interdicting supplies of refined cocaine between South and North America, 52 cents for US Customs and police but $7.46 for treatment of US citizens with severe cocaine problems.

The same study found that 93% of US government spending was allocated to the three loss-making interventions while 7% was allocated to the only profitable response – treatment.

Not sound business

A big part of the problem is that governments rain gold bars on things that don’t work well while feeding small change to health and social interventions that are really good investments.

Remember the last time you heard a talkback radio commentator tell you that methadone doesn’t work? Well, it gives a return of $7 for every $1 invested. Needle syringe program send the wrong message? Every dollar spent saves $27 overall, including $4 in health-care costs.

Politicians from both sides of politics love to keep telling the community that more decisions have to be made like they are in the world of business. They want us to think of policy decisions in terms of a balance sheet.

Two people attending the Vigil for the Victims of the Drug War on the Drug War’s 40th Anniversary. Lafayette Park, Washington, DC, in June 17, 2011. M.V. Jantzen

The alternative is to allocate scarce resources to policies and program that are known to not work but have strong sentimental interest or the support of powerful vested interests, such as private prisons and those employed in the criminal justice system for drug prohibition.

It’s also easy for them to advocate for the War on Drugs because many parents who have small children imagine are terrified that their kids will be offered drugs.

So where to from here?

If it’s clear that Plan A, with it’s focus on law enforcement, doesn’t work, it’s not yet clear what Plan B is going to be. Part of the difficulty is the poor quality of the debate – sometimes referred to as the “drug problem” problem.

I was one of 24 participants in the meeting (on 31 January) convened by Australia21 that the report was based on. I also participated in writing the report.

Australia21 believes that this country should re-examine our drug policy by having a national debate. A lively debate about drug policy is now taking place in Europe, North America and Latin America.

Australia21 believes that it’s up to the community and our politicians to make the policy choices. But Australia21 accepts that re-defining drugs as primarily a health and social issue is the threshold decision. If that is agreed, then many other things follow.

There are many more options than just prohibition or legalisation. Most change happens incrementally, and change in drug policy is likely to follow the same pattern.

Smokers High Life

Taxing and regulating cannabis, for instance, would allow for warning labels and information for people seeking help on packets. It would ensure that the concentration of active mood-altering agents is kept within a specified band, minimise sales to under-age people, and generate revenue to be used to fund drug prevention and treatment. None of this is possible under the current model.

Some people will no doubt announce that any liberalisation of our drug laws will followed by a flood of cheap drugs. Leaving aside the fact that this is what has happened under drug prohibition, the international experience of drug law liberalisation has not resulted in increased drug use.

Switzerland, for instance, defined drugs as primarily a health and social issue 20 years ago. Drug treatment was expanded, liberalised and better funded. Between 1990 and 2002, the estimated number of new heroin users in Zurich fell by 82%, along with reductions in new HIV infections among injecting drug users, drug overdose deaths, crime and quantity of heroin seized.

What matters even more than avoiding increased drug use is achieving a reduction in the number of drug-related deaths, the number of people with diseases associated with drugs, crime and corruption.

It’s time Australia had an honest debate about how to manage illicit drugs in the real world rather than pretend that we can create a drug-free world.

Join the conversation

67 Comments sorted by

  1. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Excellent and thoughtful piece from the pointy end of this issue.

    Sadly I am rather pessimistic about the chances any positive response from any government at any level - at least any time soon.

    It's not just vested interests - it is the puritanical prohibitionist culture that has infested this issue like a bloom in a petri dish for almost a century. The outraged and indignant would rather continue to lose the "good fight" against "evil" than admit defeat and seek a more sensible route to…

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I agree that the moral framework we have constructed is illogical. How did our society come to distinguish opiate dependence as "moral" vs nicotine dependence as "medical"or alcohol dependence as mixed? What about morbid obesity? Compulsive risk-taking in sport or recreation?

      Every person's life choices are a combination of inherited characteristics (both physical and emotional), life circumstances and cognitive skills. It doesn't make sense to randomly assign moral blame. I agree with Mr Ormonde above that societal change needs more than just health care policy - though Prof Wodak's comments are a welcome trigger.

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    2. evan mcdonald

      contractor

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I think the greatest benefit of any rationalisation of the current drug laws is the removal of income from the criminal sector, and the reduction of the 'romantic rebel' image that goes with drug use/supply. Anyone can get it legally - the dealer has no influence.
      Then there is also the enormous savings in reduction of policing costs and the meaningless criminalisation of huge swathes of our population for what is a personal recreational choice.
      As for the victimless crime arguement, There is a victim. They are created the moment the Police knock on their door.

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    3. evan mcdonald

      contractor

      In reply to evan mcdonald

      I also remember a young girl that died from an "ecstasy overdose" that was really a water overdose. She was at a rave and took the drug, but began to feel unwell. Her friends were too scared to seek proffessional help and recommended that she drink water "and everything will be OK."
      She died.
      She consumed nearly 14ltrs of water which diluted her blood to the extent that her kidneys shut down and she died. This would never have happened if not for the stigma of illegality - her friends would have sought medical help if not scared of the law.
      The irony is to this day her parents campaign through a foundation set up in her name for tougher laws and penalties for drug use and supply. THIS IS PRECISESLY WHAT KILLED THIER DAUGHTER.

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    4. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Great article!

      As the report states, public education needs to come first before politicians act and this is the Australia21's next step at achieving this.

      Political change will happen eventually - support for decriminalisation and legalisation is increasing every decade with the exception of 1979-1989. See the results of these US polls for clarification: http://stash.norml.org/bigbook/charts/legalization-21st-century-polls-exec.jpg and http://stash.norml.org/wp-content/uploads/Gallup2010.jpg

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    5. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Dr Wodak as sent this response:

      Dear Peter,

      It is often said that we get the politicians we deserve. It is up to the community to tell our Emperors that they are naked. A lot of politicians on both sides of politics already support drug law reform. We have to make it politically advantageous for them to provide leadership on this issue. Already it's clear that the community is ahead of our politicians on this issue.

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    6. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Dr Wodak has sent this response:
      Dear Danny,

      I agree that it is clear that support for 'legalizing marijuana' in the US is increasing rapidly.

      The 2011 Gallup poll shows that support (50%) now exceeds opposition (46%).

      Support has increased more rapidly in recent years.

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/150149/record-high-americans-favor-legalizing-marijuana.aspx

      Australia21 decided that the first task was to try and stimulate a debate. Australia21 did not want to say at this stage…

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    7. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      Dear Dr Wodak

      Thank-you for the reply. I would be grateful if you could show me the studies you're aware of that don't find a substitution effect in states/countries that have legalisation.

      In my mind there is no other explanation for the 9% reduction in road fatalities in US states with legalised medical marijuana.

      I think its important our political leaders are aware of ways to make our roads safer, and I would be interested to read the studies you mentioned that don't find a substitution effect.

      I encourage anyone to scrutinise this study: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-11/uocd-ssm112911.php

      Thanks

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  2. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    At last, the powers-that-be have [used taxpayer funds to get] a report that officially states what non-doctrinaire people have known for years. Now, all we need is for our leaders to "show leadership" by making changes to reflect what [non-elite] people have known and proposed for years.

    For a start, the principle should be that each recreational drug should have a specific consumption tax to fully funds health care costs incurred through use of that drug.

    This will result in tobacco users…

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    1. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to David Arthur

      I like this idea, but keep in mind that legal prices would have to be slightly cheaper to entice consumers away from the black market.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Black marketeers, like all other marketeers, will be subject to the attentions of the ATO.

      Eliot Ness worked for the US equivalent of the ATO, and nalied Capone on tax-dodging.

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    3. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to David Arthur

      Hi Arthur,

      Alex has asked me to post this in response to your comment:

      The need to broaden the tax base after the 1929 Depression was one of the reasons the US repealed alcohol prohibition in 1933. In the same way, governments in the US must be wondering how much revenue they could raise from taxing some drugs, especially cannabis.

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      How about a tax on cannabis to replace the income from gambling?

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Gday Sue, your proposal has the benefit of making government revenue less dependent on gambling, so that governments will no longer have a conflict of interest in the area of gambling regulation.

      However, I'm a bit wary of using revenue raised from a particular market to support government action in an unrelated area. That's why I was always sceptical of using funds from the one-off sale of Telstra for conservation - conservation is a recurrent obligation and should therefore be funded from recurrent…

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    6. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      This response from Dr Alex Wodak:
      There are some difficulties about taxing cannabis.

      Firstly, taxing and regulating cannabis may breach the 1961 and 1988 international drug treaties.

      However if the USA is the first country in the world to have some states tax and regulate cannabis, probably no objections will be made if other countries follow.

      Secondly, no country has yet taxed and regulated cannabis. So there is no large international experience to draw upon.

      Thirdly, policy makers will want to set the tax as high as they can to discourage consumption. But if the tax is set too high, then that will stimulate the growth of the very black market that many of us want to minimise. If high taxes only stimulated domestic production that would be acceptable to most people. For all these reasons it is difficult to estimate the revenue generated by this tax.

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    7. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      "taxing and regulating cannabis may breach the 1961 and 1988 international drug treaties"

      Clearly outdated policy from the days of reefer madness and should definitely not concern Australia - activists in the US recommend that other countries break this treaty as it is not a basis for rational policy. They claim that the US will realise the hypocrisy of having legalised medical marijuana states, and also the two states that have full legalisation on the ballot for 2012.

      We just need to act - someone needs to take the first step, why not Australia? Change is inevitable and it seems silly to procrastinate on the basis of an outdated treaty.

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    8. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      Taxing cannabis may breach international treaties?

      Excellent, it's about time the people who defend international treaties got a decent wake-up kick.

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    9. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      "Policy makers will want to set the tax as high as they can to discourage consumption."

      This is contrary to my proposal, which is to simply set the tax at a level to ensure complete recovery of costs arising from consumption. Beyond that, policy-makers can take their personal "morals" (aka prejudices) right out of the discussion and shove them back in the bottom drawer where they belong. Drug prohibition has always been no more and no less than "nanny state" stupidity.

      So what level do we set the tax at? We work out the health costs of drug use ($/yr), and we divide that by the amount of drug consumed (kg/yr). That gives us cost per kg ($/kg).

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    10. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to David Arthur

      David,

      A considerable proportion of alcohol and tobacco excise go toward the medical and social costs of alcohol and tobacco abusers. Why would a similar model not be part and parcel of legalise/regulate/tax currently illegal drugs?

      Cigarettes elevate the level of carbon monoxide in the blood, which persists far longer than CO2 or oxygen, and which kills brain cells and other nerves. Alcohol abuse causes (apart from cancer, cardiovascular, liver and pancreas diseases etc.)mental defects culminating in dementia. It is not right to blame only the currently illegal drugs for potential permanent harm to the brain and mental competence.

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    11. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Drugs#Costs_to_taxpayers says

      "A 2008 study by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron has estimated that legalizing drugs would inject $76.8 billion a year into the U.S. economy — $44.1 billion from law enforcement savings, and at least $32.7 billion in tax revenue ($6.7 billion from marijuana, $22.5 billion from cocaine and heroin, remainder from other drugs)."

      The scale of the costs seems credible.

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  3. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    "If, however, the aim of the War on Drugs was to create a dynamic and vigorous black market, and provide an ever-expanding variety of drugs of increasing purity at lower and lower prices while enriching organised crime, bikie gangs and corrupt police, then drug prohibition has been an overwhelming success."

    Oooooii! Who leaked our plans to this clown?

    Actually as a proud Tasmanian I would like to state that our state grows the best quality opium in the world (poppies of terroir, not terror). I would have every addict who was willing to sit through a 10 minute medical consultation be given a free shot of Tasmanian heroin to be used on the clinic.

    It wouldn't increase the overall amount of heroin consumed, but it would undermine the black market profits, so the politicians would fight such a proposal tooth and nail.

    Strange bedfellows.....

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  4. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    If you want people to stop using recreational drugs, all you have to do is wait for them to grow out of it. Oh, and stop having kids, who may want to "experiment" with drugs.

    Mind you, we geriatrics tend to rely on pharmaceuticals.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to David Arthur

      My little town here is awash with drugs.... two pubs - the biggest buildings in town - plus two drive-in bottleshops and a supermaket -one-third of which is devoted to booze, plus a bowling club and a golf club. And it's the oldies that spend their retirements in the pubs and clubs.

      The local cemetery has a mixed bag ... lots of old farmers and battlers (who all seem to last well past 80) and a pile of newer big shiney ones dedicated to young blokes under 30. One of them is festooned with old bundy bottles left as a mark of affection by his mates.

      Meanwhile last week, the local cop - he's not really a local, they shut the police station down five years back - busted a bloke with MS for growing 6 dope plants in his backyard 30 kms from town. A menace to society apparently.

      Sometimes it takes a small town to show us how silly we are.

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    2. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Hi Peter,

      Alex has asked me to post this response to your comment:

      69% of Australians now support allowing the medicinal use of cannabis.

      Cannabis could be used for people with terminal conditions suffering unbearable symptoms not relieved by conventional drugs.

      Why hasn't this been made possible yet?

      Mainly because of a perceived conflict with our War on Drugs.

      Do want Australia to be a compassionate, caring sort of country?

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    3. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to David Arthur

      Hi david,
      Alex has asked me to add this in response to your comment:
      There's a lot of truth and wisdom in your comment.

      Most young people who experiment with drugs stop fairly soon after starting.

      And many who start using drugs frequently stop on their own.

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      Reema,

      And many who start using drugs in their youth end up spending their retirement throwing back schooners every day at the local, then hurtling back home on the road they know so well they can do it with their eyes closed... and often do. We don't even regard that stuff as drug.

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    5. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      Why?
      Well start by making a list of the people who make money out of it the way things are...starting with the defence Lawyers (& many politicians are Lawyers), Political party donations?, Cops?.....the list is endless .....

      Why hasn't the Media or Religions annunciated legalisation which is so obviously necessary? Seems drug pushing comes from VERY high up the "food chain".

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    6. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      This response from Dr Alex Wodak:
      Good point.

      'Drugs' means 'psychoactive drugs'.

      That should mean tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, illicit drugs and volatile solvents.

      After all, why some drugs are legal and others are illegal is pretty arbitrary.

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    7. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to William Bruce

      How many defence lawyers in Aus are lobbying to maintain the WOSD?

      I haven't heard many criticise drug laws, but tacit consent isn't always endorsement.

      TeleMethuselah Pat Robertson has publicly called for the decriminalisation of cannabis
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/mar/12/pat-robertson-marijuana-message

      News and Fairfax and many lesser organs, as well as online news/comment publications, news aggregators, blogs etc have all featured Australia21's call for reform, Alex Wodak's interviews and commentary and much more.

      The media, religion, educational organs and politicians most of all, have all had a hand in promulgating and perpetuating myths about drugs to the extent that politicians feel attempting to de-programme the electorate would lose them office, so they are stuck with the consequences of decades of vote-grabbing policies based on herd-manipulation rather than evidence.

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  5. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    The precise meaning of this report as official puzzles me.
    The "report" seems to have been developed on a time scale rather more quickly than that of Fair Work Australia into the HSU.
    It would seem to me that one is rather rushed and the other puzzlingly slow.
    It is not clear that the report presents anything more than a rehash of individually expressed opinions over the years.
    The use of the term "war on drugs" has always seemed a misnomer to me, especially when major drug wholesalers attract more attention from the social reporters of major newspapers than from the drug squad.

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    1. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      "It is not clear that the report presents anything more than a rehash of individually expressed opinions over the years."

      There seems to be a disconnect between the initial criticism of the 'report' being rushed, but at the same time merely a "rehash of individually expressed opinions over the years." How can it be both?

      I'd like to see the previous examples of such opinions being expressed by so many people so experienced in, and qualified to pronounce upon, the effectiveness or otherwise…

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  6. Malcolm Kyle

    logged in via Facebook

    Excerpts from the Australian Drug Policy report titled: "The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen."

    “For us, when we lost our son, we did not seek sympathy, we saw the injustice and craziness of our drug laws. We wanted people to focus on that, not on our suffering.” – Marion and Brian McConnell are founding members of 'Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform'.

    “Many people who think of themselves as the beneficiaries of…

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    1. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Malcolm Kyle

      “I am strongly in favour of legalising, regulating, controlling and taxing all drugs." - Nicholas Cowdery AM QC Director of Public Prosecutions for NSW from 1994 to 2011

      A TRUE HERO !!

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    2. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Malcolm Kyle

      This response from Dr Alex Wodak:
      Dear Malcolm,

      I am very fond of a saying that Herb Stein, economics adviser to President Nixon, used to often repeat 'things that can't go on forever don't'

      best wishes,

      Alex

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  7. Rob Crowther

    Architectural Draftsman

    I don’t believe you can have a war on drugs in the same way you cannot have a war on terrorism.

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  8. Donncha Redmond

    Software Developer

    Might as well just legalise and legislate everything. Most drug problems are due to overdoses, usually as a result of varying quality between batches.

    Legalise cocaine, ecstacy, speed etc. Grant licences to Big Pharma to manufacture ad different levels of purity, clearly marked, and tax it to buggery.

    You can buy a pill in London for about 1 pound, or 1.50 (and there's still clearly profit in that!) whereas they cost $30 or so here. That's a LOT of room for tax, ergo large amounts of Govt. revenue to spend on health, education & social aspects.

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    1. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Donncha Redmond

      It is not only users that are dying because the drugs are illegal & they don't know what they are using.

      It is FAR worse than this, innocent bystanders are unnecessarily killed & harmed by people committing all sorts of horrendous activities to get money to pay for drugs. And, the costs of it all.....AND illegal drugs are corrupting our superb nation.

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    2. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Donncha Redmond

      Dr Alex Wodak has sent this response to your comment:
      Current policy pays a lot of attention to the political aspects while ignoring the economics of the drug trade.
      What is needed is an approach which tries to reconcile the two.
      Easier to say than to do.
      The term 'legalise' covers a multitude of sins.
      Tobacco was legal in the 1950s and is still legal in 2012.
      But in the 1950s tobacco was regulated like soap or coffee.
      Now tobacco is very tightly regulated.
      The actual terminology used in this debate causes a lot of confusion.

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    3. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Donncha Redmond

      "Might as well just legalise and legislate everything."

      I don't see why anyone would say that or how they would expect it to come about.

      "Most drug problems are due to overdoses, usually as a result of varying quality between batches."

      Is there any evidence behind this startling claim?

      In terms of harms and costs to society, I would say overdoses are the least expensive aspect, although obviously a painful loss for some family and friends on a personal level.

      It almost never hurts to do some research into a subject before repeating the kind of claims one is accustomed to expect from talk-back radio and vote-craving, ignorant politicians (some are neither).

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  9. Michael Shand
    Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Software Tester

    About bloody time, thank you for posting this article, the amount of money and time wasted by this rubbish is horrific

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  10. Damian Frank

    Researcher in Flavour and Sensory Science at CSIRO

    In this debate there are rarely any open or honest attempts to understand why so many people in this (and other) societies like and choose to take recreational (and prescription) drugs (that includes alcohol). We always hear about the extreme examples of addicts, like alcoholics, who for whatever reason can't control their reward pathways. What about the very many "normal", highly-functioning citizens who enjoy - every now an then - the positive effects of drugs? Any Sunday morning walk in inner…

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Damian Frank

      "Researcher in Flavour and Sensory Science"? What a fabulous field!

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  11. Andrew Nielsen

    logged in via Facebook

    The War On Paedophiles has failed. Millions of dollars has been spent on incarcerating paedophiles and still there are paedophiles in the community. Pedophiles are stigmatised and scared to come forward for treatment. Whose problem is this? Well, if you have a child that might be raped by an unregulated, HIV positive paedophile, it is your problem. The current regeim has enriched illegal purveyers of kiddie porn and paedophile rings; this must be brought to a stop. The Kiddie69 thinktank has released a policy recommending that children should be available for legal private use in Australia. Child pornography (really) was legalised in some Scandanavian countries in the 1960s, and the Scandanavians are always ahead and better than Australia on social policy.

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    1. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to Andrew Nielsen

      So, you think raping a child is equivalent to smoking a joint, taking an ecstasy tablet or a couple of decades ago having a drink? Right, good for you, aren't you an interesting creature.

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    2. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Andrew Nielsen

      Dr Alex Wodak has asked me to post this response to Andrew Nielsen:

      Arguments just based on an analogy are always concerning because of the possibility that the analogy is false.
      The error is obvious here - a mala per se crime is being compared with a mala prohibita crime.

      Mala per se crimes involve involuntary violence of one person to another.
      These laws are similar in different countries and change little over time.
      Finding witnesses is usually easy.

      Mala prohibita crimes are consensual, laws differ greatly between countries and usually also over time within the one jurisdiction.
      Finding witnesses is usually difficult.
      It is nonsense to argue that paedophilia and drug use are very similar.

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    3. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      I think we need to be very wary of people that attempt to perceive paedophilia as less of a danger than what it really is by comparing it to consensual drug usage.

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    4. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Andrew Nielsen

      I don't know if DSM IV has a classification for being unable to make a moral distinction between abusing children and abusing alcohol and other drugs. I'm glad I don't know anyone in real life who can't.

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  12. William Bruce

    Artist

    1. Licence users (Must first have 2 Doctors certificates showing they have been warned/advised of the consequences).
    2. Let people get it from their Doctors. This will kill the pushers business.
    3. Compulsorily educate all 12-14 year old children with a Video presentation/s about the facts about addiction and negative mental & physical consequences.

    NB Drugs might cause harm to "an individual" but no harm at all to society. It's people that "can't pay for illicit drugs" that causes ALL the problems...& massive CORRUPTION....and fills prisons and so on...

    Anyone who is against LICENSING DRUG USERS has a vested financial interest or has no idea.

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    1. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to William Bruce

      Take me, an occasional pot smoker that works just like anyone else and pays taxes.

      Your suggestion doesn't give me much incentive to sever ties with the black market. Really? You're proposing I need 2 doctors certificates to consume a substance twice as safe as alcohol? Sounds very illogical, I think I'd rather call my dealer.

      Perhaps with harder drugs this might be viable, but keep in mind we need to make Plan B/C more appealing than the black market for people to make the switch.

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    2. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      I know pot might be a serious as hard drugs, I know many people who have had really bad lifelong pot addictions. Also, I know for a fact if you smoke enough pot it can make you seriously "veg"....It is no big deal to get 2 Doctors tell you of what harms they think might occur and then you can relax because you are completely legal and can buy at FAR FAR cheaper price!

      I still say, anyone who is against LICENSING DRUG USERS has a vested financial interest or has no idea.

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    3. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to William Bruce

      Sorry I meant,

      I know pot might NOT be a serious as hard drugs

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    4. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to William Bruce

      "anyone who is against LICENSING DRUG USERS has a vested financial interest or has no idea"

      Perhaps we see this as a form of discrimination? Would you see two doctors to be able to consume wine? Seems an unnecessary burden on doctors who already have their hands full. Harder drugs, perhaps.

      "I know many people who have had really bad lifelong pot addictions"
      And the small minority that have problems with pot should be able to seek treatment without fear of prosecution. I know a few who…

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    5. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      In retrospect, I once had a dealer that sold cannabis with a higher THC content - consuming this made me feel dopey and slow the next day and I ceased using this dealer. I did not know back then about THC/CBD ratios, but the important point to take out of this is without a regulated market there is no way of knowing what ratios of THC/CBD you're getting.

      For now, I enjoy the outdoor grown bush weed as it does not make me feel dopey or slow the next day; quite the opposite - energised, feeling good and active.

      It is prohibition that has led to indoor hydroponics and stronger strains, which I suspect causes most of the problems people have.

      In any case, this should be treated as a health problem and not a criminal problem.

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    6. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      "... the debate should be around whether or not it is best to divert $1-2 Billion annually form the black market to taxes...." You can't be serious?

      Thousands of people and billions of dollars go out the window NOW because of the current "illegal" racket system.
      The cops & law enforcement could stop in all this in 6 weeks IF there was the will to do so.

      Bribery, profiteering and violent crime unnecessarily run through our system now. Is that what any decent person wants?

      Cowdrey is a HERO!

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    7. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to William Bruce

      When you say "LICENSING DRUG USERS" I assume you're including alcohol users?

      "In terms of costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user. On the enforcement side, costs for cannabis are the highest at $328 per user—94% of social costs for cannabis are linked to enforcement. Enforcement costs per user for alcohol are about half those for cannabis ($153), while enforcement costs for tobacco are very low."
      http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/cannabis/bck/7

      Another way of putting it: Canada spends $16.40 in enforcement to save $1 in health costs.

      Cannabis related health costs WILL be reduced with regulation - I believe it is the stronger THC strains that causes problems. The health costs of alcohol would be greater if there were no limits on % - we have these limits for a reason.

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    8. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to William Bruce

      William, Dr Wodak has asked that I post his reply to your comment:
      Dear William,

      [I note your correction: 'I know pot might (not) be a serious as hard drugs']

      You seem to believe that cannabis is quite dangerous.

      Perhaps you're right.

      If we assume you're right, and that cannabis really is quite dangerous, please explain why you prefer Al Capone to be the sole distributor?

      Is there something compassionate and caring about Al Capone that I never knew about?

      Personally, the more dangerous cannabis is thought to be, the more I like the idea of warnings and help seeking information on packets, proof of age for people purchasing the drug, hard-to-get and easy-to-lose licences for producers, wholesalers and retailers, and taxation to raise revenue to pay for drug prevention and treatment.

      Do you think we could talk Al Capone into providing these?

      best wishes,

      Alex

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    9. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      While the study seems to deal only with health costs, that alone speaks volumes about return-on-investment woes for the WOSD.

      Another study, from UK rated overall harm to society. The link is in paragraph one, but here's Professor Nutt's description of the study in lay person terms:

      http://profdavidnutt.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/drug-harms-paper-a-summary/

      Full Lancet article:

      http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2961462-6/fulltext#article_upsell

      Quantifying graph of harm to self v harm to others:

      http://download.thelancet.com/images/journalimages/0140-6736/PIIS0140673610614626.gr3.lrg.jpg

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    10. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      High CBD (cannabidiol) /low THC cannabis can be soporific and psychologically relaxing without much "high" I have read, and so early-harvest cannabis is favoured by some people who cannabis for medical purposes.

      In Aus, Cannabis indica is preferred by commercial growers because it is low-growing (less easily detected), fast growing (quicker crop) and bushier (heavier crop) than C. sativa.

      C. indica is much more associated with the 'stoned' vegetative experience, as opposed to c. sativa's reputation for a more mentally alert, creative and conversational 'high'.

      Certainly, less vegetating would take place if the illegal market were not driving relentlessly for quantity over quality.

      Governments could start actively encouraging cannabis users to grow their own, which would drain revenue away from criminal commercial growers, and foster an environment where people who cared about the quality of what they were consuming had the opportunity to control that quality.

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    11. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      "Marijuana Botany" by Robert Connell Clarke can be found for sale on-line, and the Green Man's Page has the text - I don't know whether with the author/publisher's permission or not.

      Chapter four has interesting information about cannabinoid morphology.

      From what I can gather elsewhere, it's not the THC content alone, but that the less CBD there is to act as a counterbalance, the greater the risk of disturbed or psychotic thinking.

      Anyone with a family history of schizophrenia or psychotic…

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    12. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Nick Cooper

      From memory Nick there is also a strong correlation between the age of the user, frequency and quantity and the onset of psychosis ... younger adolescent males seem particularly susceptible.

      In doing a bit of a trawl about arising from this discussion I noticed that the Dutch suppliers of seeds now boast 25% and above THC content. This is 3 - 5 times the THC content that was about when I was a kiddie. I'm not sure how reliable these numbers would be. But not one mention anywhere I could find of the CBD level. Nor was there any discussion of the suggested relationship between use and psychosis.

      I think commercial suppliers should be made more responsible than simply ramping up one aspect of their product.

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  13. William Bruce

    Artist

    Only licensing can make it legal, wipe out the black market and crime and, stop it being freely available at the same time.

    Then all I think that is needed is to educate 12-14 yr olds of the consequences.
    This could be achieved by as little as watching a couple of videos.

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    1. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to William Bruce

      "Then all I think that is needed is to educate 12-14 yr olds of the consequences."

      I was lent "Go Ask Alice" as a teenager - a fictitious story about a teenage girl's descent into drug hell, and all I thought was "I wonder who I could buy some cannabis from at my school."

      Adolescent brains are short on impulse control and decision-making prowess, by reputation and medical documentation.

      A rhetorically sound explanation of why you would be better off leaving drugs until your brain has fully…

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  14. Margo Saunders

    Public Health Policy Researcher

    Seems to me that the real problem on which the report's authors and supporters are focusing is that a single-minded attempt to tackle drugs from a supply-side approach has not been successful. Well....duh. We know that that doesn't work for tobacco or alcohol, either, and we wouldn't even suggest it. National tobacco and alcohol strategies have long emphasised the need for a multi-faceted approach involving both supply control and demand reduction -- not one without the other. As long as there is…

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    1. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Margo Saunders

      Re"..... strategies implemented....that build self-esteem, self-efficacy and resilience and that convey the message that, whatever your issues are, drug dependence is not the answer?"

      This might be partly true but almost all the people I know that have had serious problems have been perfectly well adjusted, successful and well educated. Perfectly normal & good functioning people in my view. I suspect the lions share of people get hooked because they are not educated as to how easily one can become…

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    2. Reema Rattan

      Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Margo Saunders

      Margo, Dr Wodak has asked me to post this response to your comment:
      Dear Margo,

      Of the $ 3 billion Australian governments spent in 2003/04, 75% went on drug law enforcement (customs, police, courts, prisons etc) but 17% went on demand reduction (10% on school and mass education campaigns and 7% of drug treatment) with 1% for harm reduction, 5% for health care of drug users and 2% miscellaneous.

      So Australian governments do try to reduce the demand for drugs.

      It's just that education…

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    3. Nick Cooper

      workplace safety practitioner (ret'd)

      In reply to Margo Saunders

      "dysfunction and abuse in families, various types of disadvantage, and a craving for sensationalist experimentation, it is fair to ask: where are the serious demand reduction strategies for illicit drug use"

      I assume you think most people consume alcohol for those reasons, and that more should be done to reduce the demand for alcohol as well.

      People who consume alcohol and other drugs in recreational amounts without impairing their family, work or social lives no doubt do so for millions of…

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