Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 1998
Date: 07/22/1998
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author: Joan Kersey

Drugs, they cost a packet! In fact $1.6 billion a year in thefts to
buy heroin (Herald, July 18). Not only that, the cost to the taxpayer
of police, courts, customs and prisons are estimated at more than $2.5
billion a year. And still the drug war on our youth goes on with our
pollies frantically competing with each other to outbid the amount
spent on law enforcement.

Isn't it time we called for a halt and thought cooly about some
possible alternatives to control the problem? Professor Ian Webster
warned against the political shift towards law enforcement and
emphasised the need to have an integrated approach involving
education, grassroots support and the health system. Carefully
monitored trials such as safe injecting rooms, greater access to
counselling and treatment, the ACT heroin trials and alternatives to
criminal charges for first offenders (as in Victoria) are some of the
approaches, to name a few.

It is patently obvious that the old system is not working and there
has to be a better way. Apart from the social effect of current laws
on the lives of young people and their families, the cost to the
victims of drug-related crime and the ever-increasing costs to the
taxpayers simply cannot be sustained indefinitely. It is getting
altogether too expensive.

Joan Kersey,
Point Piper