971 Legalise Drugs

This is a pet-subject of mine, it is a no-brainer: Drug manufacture and distribution is left to criminal gangs who kill hundreds of thousands of people in S. America and around the world, make insane and obscene profits, and users are left with too costly (... which drives them into crime) and unsafe (... which kills them) drugs. It's irrational ... I have an essay IRRATIONALITY in my book en.light.en.ment


My letters to the newspaper:

Rethinking drugs policy

With all due respect, your coverage of drug use (Dancing With Death", July 13-14) misses the point. The point with concert-going drug users is that they will always take drugs ... and why should they not? Their parents use alcohol for stimulation to the point of inebriation, which is a much bigger cultural and health problem.


However, the suggested pill testing is a band-aid solution. As Dr David Caldicott of Pill Testing Australia says, "information about … potentially lethal drugs should be made public." This is the first step, but it must be followed by decriminalisation.


It is paramount that drug use be decriminalised. No more policing (and strip searching) at entertainment venues, instead 1) education; 2) ethically sourced drugs; 3) all drugs on prescription. 


Then a doctor sits down with the user and advises them on the proper use of the drug, i.e. what dose is appropriate relevant to their weight, health history and other medications they are using; what side-effects they can expect and the dangers associated with incorrect drug use, like mixing drugs and adding alcohol into the mix. 


Doctors would have a record of a person's drug habits and can advise them accordingly. Decriminalisation will save resources, curb crime and save lives. 


Carsten Burmeister, Mosman


I agree with Antony Loewenstein (‘‘Legal drugs will make us safer’’, July 8). The fact that drug manufacture and supply is left to criminals does not make sense and is detrimental both to drug users and society in general.


The costly war on drugs will never be won. But Loewenstein only pays cursory attention to the obvious question: if legal alcohol is still the most destructive drug, then how will that reality transfer to legalised substances like cannabis, cocaine, heroin and ice? 

It would have been useful to get more pointers on this particular problem, since he is obviously well educated on the issue of drugs legalisation. 


Carsten Burmeister, Balmoral

There's only one way to deal with drugs to make Australia safer



The only way to ensure a safer Australian society is to legalise and regulate all drugs. This could save lives, earn huge revenue for the state and diminish the power of criminal gangs that make billions of dollars annually from the production and sale of illicit substances.


This doesn’t mean a free-for-all where heroin, cocaine, opioids, ice or methamphetamines will be easily available at the local supermarket but a considered way to tackle both soft and riskier drugs that doesn’t infantilise users.


No country on earth has yet legalised and regulated all drugs so it’s high time that Australia embarks on a sensible debate towards necessary change.


When radio broadcaster Alan Jones agrees with the NSW Bar Association and Uniting Church, backers of the successful King’s Cross medically supervised injecting centre, to decriminalise the personal use of all drugs including ice, it’s clear that the prohibition mantra is being challenged like never before.


After a horrific summer that saw the death of many young Australians ingesting dangerous pills, the NSW coronial inquest into the tragedies begins this week. Pill testing could have saved these lives. The process is proven from countless trials in Australia, the US and Britain.


I’ve spent the last four years reporting in countries that are being destroyed by the Washington-inspired drug war. From Honduras to Guinea-Bissau, the Philippines to Australia and the US to Britain, I’ve investigated how drug policy is used to marginalise minorities and the poor. Regulating and legalising drugs has the potential to fundamentally rewrite the narrative for a fairer and healthier world.


Canada, many US states and Uruguay have legalised marijuana. Portugal has decriminalised all drugs since 2001 and deaths from drug overdoses have massively declined. For the last 18 years, Portugal has viewed drug addiction as a medical issue rather than a criminal justice problem. The Global Commission on Drugs, comprised of former leaders from South America, Europe and Africa, released a 2018 report that called for the “responsible control of drugs” through legalisation.


The Global Drug Survey, the world’s biggest annual study of drug use with over 165,000 participants, this year included a question on whether users would want to buy ethically sourced cocaine. An overwhelming number said that they would. One of Britain’s leading drug reform groups, Transform, recently announced that it will publish a book on how to legally regulate cocaine and other stimulants. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and ecstasy are increasingly seen as one possible method to help with post-traumatic stress and depression.


The regulation and legalisation of drugs is vital, writes Cesar Gaviria, the former president of Colombia, a country that has lost at least 220,000 people from a futile drug war in the last 50 years. Today it remains the world’s biggest producer of cocaine. “It’s not because drugs are safe but precisely because they are risky and we seek to manage and reduce those risks”, Gaviria says.


What would legalisation look like in Australia? Injectable heroin would only be available through medical prescription, an option that already exists in many European countries. Pharmacies would sell medium-risk drugs such as ecstasy in non-branded packaging while enforcing quantity and age controls as well as offering health and consumption advice. Licensed premises for sale and consumption, akin to a bottle shop, would sell cannabis and magic mushrooms while adhering to a strict regulatory authority. Never forget that legal alcohol is still the most destructive drug.


Regulated drugs means that substances would be cleaner and less likely to cause user harm. The state or approved private companies must produce and closely monitor the chemical make-up of drugs. Advertising cannot be allowed. If anybody fell victim to addiction or harm from drug taking, they would have a clear pathway to state-supported treatment.


Because the Australian states and federal government could raise huge amounts of revenue from legal drug sales, this money would be spent on health, education and infrastructure. Look at the US where increasing numbers of states have legalised marijuana and are already investing the tax revenue back into communities.


Australia will inevitably embrace pill testing because it’s sensible public policy that minimises harm. Recall that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews spent years opposing a safe injecting centre in Victoria before finally seeing sense last year and its success in saving lives is clear. However, pill testing is just one, relatively small tool in the arsenal of shifting the drug debate.


Any advocate of a regulated and legalised drug market should not ignore the fact that substances will still kill people. They will destroy families. Overdoses will happen. Addiction can occur. This isn’t a panacea to the problem; it’s a necessary corrective to decades of failed prohibition that has enriched cartels at the expense of the wider community. Australia could be a world leader in designing a regulatory framework that severely restricts access to drugs while pumping far more money into education and treatment.


Antony Loewenstein is a Jerusalem-based Australian journalist and the author of the forthcoming book, Pills, Powder and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs.