Lawyers say time is now for drug law reform

International examples of success, growing public support and the clear failure of current laws to stop drug use means the time is right now for drug law reform, said the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) today launching a new policy report into Australian drug laws.

“We need to legalise and regulate drug use in Australia now to save lives,” said Greg Barns SC, criminal justice spokesperson, ALA. “Australia’s ‘war on drugs’ has been lost and people are dying because of the failure of our system.

“We have argued for many years that the possession and use of illicit substances should be decriminalised and preferably legalised. However, there is now increasing evidence from a range of countries to show that this approach will work.

“Overseas studies – and even the work done in the ACT since cannabis use was decriminalised – shows that decriminalising or legalising drugs does not increase use but instead allows an increased focus on health and social support for users.

“Globally, there is increasing recognition of the need to keep non-violent drug users out of the criminal justice system and it is time that Australian laws reflected this awareness.”

Examples of international approaches to drug use are outlined in the report called ‘Doing More Harm Than Good’ released today by the ALA. The report collates a wide range of evidence to explain why drug law reform is needed and is being distributed widely to politicians and other decision-makers.

“The evidence is there and it should give confidence that, in Australia, we can safely reform our approach to drug use and possession,” said Mr Barns SC. “In fact, the quicker we move from the current emphasis on law enforcement to a focus on the broader health and social issues associated with the harmful use of drugs, the more lives can be saved.

“Currently drug users are fearful of law enforcement, too scared to seek help for their addiction and reliant on drug suppliers not just for the drugs themselves, but also for any information about what they are taking and how they should take it.

“This situation fuels a dangerously unregulated drug market, and people – of all ages and backgrounds – are dying as a result. Law reform is urgently needed.”

Read the complete ALA ‘Doing More Harm than Good’ report here.

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