Pubdate: Wed, 17 Mar 1999
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author: David Dixon


You quote me (News Review Sayings, March 13) as claiming that "you cannot
have zero tolerance [towards drugs] because you can only suppress it".
Readers may think that if you can suppress illegal drugs, zero tolerance may
be worth taking seriously.

What I actually said was that we cannot suppress the illegal drug market,
and that is why the police are inevitably involved in managing it. This
means not expecting to stop this market, but rather attempting to control,
shape and direct it in ways which minimise the associated harms(including
public health risk, social and economic damage and police corruption).
Policing involves making judgments about which harms to focus on and choices
about how to do so.

While I disagree with some such judgments and choices (because, in my view,
they increase rather than reduce harm), it is common ground that such
judgments and choices have to be made. Suppression is not available as an
option. "Harm reduction" and "harm minimisation" are terms which carry
considerable political baggage. This needs to be set aside so that we can
appreciate that they are inevitably the real business of drug policing.

It would be better to talk about how police can best reduce and minimise
harm than to waste more time on fantasies of zero tolerance.

Associate Professor David Dixon, Faculty of Law, University of NSW,
Kensington March 15.

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