Pubdate: Tue, 18 Jul 2006
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2006sThe Australian
Author: Rick Wallace, Victorian political reporter
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


FACTORY-produced heroin will be imported into Australia and 
prescribed for long-term addicts under the Victorian Greens' drugs 
policy. The Greens -- predicted to hold the balance of power in 
Victoria after the November state election -- also announced plans 
for supervised heroin injection rooms, and the scrapping of all 
criminal penalties for drug use.

Greens Victorian upper house candidate Colleen Hartland said the 
proposals would reduce harm and save lives.

"Current approaches are not working, so it is time to step back from 
the emotional debate and work to implement programs that will 
effectively tackle the problems associated with legal and illegal 
drugs," she said.

The Greens heroin trial proposal mirrors equivalent moves in Europe 
and Vancouver, Canada, where prescription heroin is given to addicts 
who have become resistant to methadone.

Advocates say it provides a safe source for a drug that addicts would 
otherwise steal to purchase, while detractors say it sends the wrong 
message to the community on a dangerous drug.

Premier Steve Bracks dismissed the policy but would not be drawn on 
whether a preference deal would be struck between Labor and the Greens.

A spokesman for Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu condemned the Greens 
for their policy.

"The policy is ill-conceived. The Liberal Party is completely opposed 
to this and to heroin injecting rooms," he said.

Under the policy, the production, sale or trafficking of illicit 
drugs would remain an offence, but users would only face a court 
order requiring them to participate in a health scheme.

The Greens said the heroin trial was needed for those addicts who, 
through their long-term use, had become resistant to current 
methadone-based treatments.

"It's not the decriminalisation of heroin," Ms Hartland said. "It's 
about having a trial to see whether people with long-term chronic use 
can be assisted in this way."

Greens health adviser Richard Di Natale said the drug would not be 
manufactured in Australia, but imported from pharmaceutical companies 
that supplied other heroin trials across the globe.

The Greens policy also proposes to regulate medicinal marijuana use, 
while needle exchange facilities would be rolled out statewide to cut 
rates of hepatitis and HIV infection among users.

The legal drugs -- alcohol and tobacco -- are also targeted, with the 
Greens calling for a ban on all tobacco advertising and sponsorship, 
and an end to advertisements that "glamorise" alcohol, particularly 
to teenagers.

Additional reporting: AAP
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman