HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html UN Slams States' Drug Stance
Pubdate: Wed, 21 Feb 2001
Source: Australian Associated Press (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 Australian Associated Press

UN SLAMS STATES' DRUG STANCE

THE United Nations has criticised Australian states for challenging the 
Federal Government's anti-heroin injection room stance. The UN's 
International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said the continuing rise in 
heroin deaths and the accessibility of heroin was a major problem facing 
Australia.

In its annual report, the board also noted the price of the drug had 
fallen, its purity remained high and arrests for criminal offences 
involving heroin had increased sharply since 1997.

Therefore the focus in Australia needed to be on measures to reduce the 
number of heroin abusers, it said.

"Harm reduction should not become a goal in itself or be adopted at the 
expense of a strong commitment to reduce both the supply of and demand for 
illicit drugs," the INCB said.

"Some states unfortunately challenge the policy of the Federal Government 
and choose to support policies that run counter to the treaty obligation 
limiting the use of drugs to medical and scientific purposes only, by 
establishing heroin injecting rooms where illicitly obtained drugs can be 
injected under supervision."

The opening of Australia's first legal heroin injecting room was delayed 
again in January after opponents won an undertaking from the New South 
Wales Government that the controversial trial would be suspended until the 
Supreme Court decided its future in March.

The Uniting Church had been given formal approval to begin operations in 
Sydney's red light district of Kings Cross, after the Vatican overruled the 
participation of the Sisters of Charity.

The $1.8 million medically supervised injecting room, now unlikely to 
become operational until early next year, has been plagued by delays since 
it was first mooted in May last year.

The Victorian Labor government, also trying to get a trial underway, is 
struggling to get support from any quarter.

Injecting rooms also became an issue at the recent West Australian election 
with Labor stating they should be considered at a drugs summit. The issue 
is expected to be a factor in the ACT's October 20 poll.

In its report, the INCB also said it was concerned about the high social 
acceptance of illicit drugs and the large number of people in favour of the 
legalisation of drugs in Australia.

"Indicators show that globally Australia is among the countries with the 
most widespread cannabis abuse," it said.

"The board notes, however, that the majority of Australians are not in 
favour of the legalisation of cannabis."
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