Pubdate: Sat, 01 Jan 2011
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2011 The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Evan Thomas


If we were winning the war on drugs, Peter Maresch (Letters, December
30), supply on the streets would be diminishing, prices would be
increasing, and drug-trading millionaire criminals would be seeking
other occupations.

The evidence clearly suggests that this is not the case. Those
advocating a fresh approach, such as Dr Alex Wodak (Letters, December
29), a world expert in this field, are certainly not ignoring the
plight of those who have succumbed to drug addiction; far from it.
There is the model of a society that has both decriminalised drugs and
concurrently enhanced its treatment of drug victims without any
significant increase in illicit drug use.

The society that has decriminalised (not legalised) drugs is Portugal;
this measure has been in force for nine years. This action has been
reported by the British Journal of Criminology (November issue) in a
peer-reviewed study titled "What can we learn from the Portuguese
decriminalisation of illicit drugs?"

Among the conclusions: reduced drug use among problematic drug users
since 2003; reduced burden of drug offenders on the criminal justice
system; increased uptake of drug treatment; reduction in
opiate-related deaths and infectious diseases; increases in the amount
of drugs seized by authorities; reduction in retail prices of drugs
and small increases reported in illicit drug use by adults. This
latter increase was also observed in Spain and Italy.

Most illicit drug matters are complex and further study is warranted,
with perhaps a trial in this country as the outcome.

Evan Thomas West Pennant Hills, board member and volunteer, Family
Drug Support
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