Pubdate: Fri, 30 Mar 2001
Source: West Australian (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 West Australian Newspapers Limited
Author: Alex Wodak


TERRY RYAN argues (Letters, 27/3) that the serious health 
complications from smoking cannabis have been overlooked. Some will 
agree with this view while others will disagree.

The annual turnover of this industry in Australia has been estimated 
by Access Economics to be $5 billion, representing one per cent of 
the Australian economy.

This means that the cannabis industry in Australia is the same size 
as our gold industry, twice the size of our wine industry and 
three-quarters the size of our beer industry. This industry is 
controlled by criminals and corrupt police. If we have to choose 
between one per cent of the Australian economy being controlled by 
criminals and corrupt police, or being taxed and regulated, I feel no 
shame in admitting that I favour the latter.

If Mr Ryan has good reasons to justify preferring to retain the 
cannabis industry as a monopoly for criminals and corrupt police, I 
am certainly broad minded enough to reconsider my position.

Taxing and regulating cannabis would restrict its supply to 
juveniles. Cannabis health warnings and information on available help 
could be provided with the drug. Police corruption could be 
minimised. Scarce police resources could be diverted to reduce 
violent crime. Perhaps these are outcomes that do not interest Mr 

I recognise that changes of this kind do not happen suddenly. 
Unfortunately, we may have to wait for several more royal commissions 
into police corruption before these changes pass through the 
political system.

Dr ALEX WODAK, president, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and 
director, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh Sutcliffe