Pubdate: Saturday, August 1, 1998
Source: Courier Mail (Australia)

THE Capital City Lord Mayors Conference yesterday unanimously supported
heroin trials as it resolved to move towards radical change in the handling
of the drugs crisis.

The Brisbane conference backed the view that current methods used to combat
drug abuse and associated crime had not worked.

This was evidenced by the growing number of users, deaths from overdosing
and petty crime.

Some lord mayors said they had already started negotiations with their
state governments to implement the recommendations.

Among the suggestions were lessening the punishment for possession of
marijuana for personal use to a police warning, and allowing medically
controlled and supervised "injecting facilities" to eliminate addicts
turning to crime to fund their habits.

The facilities also would reduce the incidence of drug overdoses, which now
killed as many people in Australia as traffic accidents, the lord mayors

Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley said drug addiction had become a capital
city problem with most drug abuse and associated crime occurring there.

He said more and more money was having to be spent on law and order issues,
such as the installation of closed-circuit security television in the Queen
Street Mall. But increased security was not the answer - cause and demand
had to be attacked.

Adelaide's Lord Mayor, Dr Jane Lomax-Smith, said it made economic sense to
rehabilitate drug addicts rather than jail them.

"It is a $2 billion industry in Australia. For a drug addict to feed their
habit costs $40,000 to $50,000 which can only be done through crime and
prostitution. To jail them costs $43,000 and to rehabilitate them costs

Drugs expert and former professor of medicine and vice-chancellor of the
University of Melbourne, Professor David Penington, said marijuana was now
Queensland's largest cash crop.

Professor Penington said drug dealers commonly sold both marijuana and heroin.

Allowing users to grow plants at home for their own use eliminated their
having to enter a criminal environment to buy the drug and significantly
reduced the likelihood of the person being pushed into trying harder drugs.

Other recommendations of the conference included a new approach to drug
education programmes building on the success of a Victorian model,
expanding treatment and rehabilitation facilities and exploring the success
of European drug trials which independent assessors found had achieved
significant inroads into the drugs problem.

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