The ‘War on Drugs’ has been ongoing for nearly a century and billions of dollars has been spent on law enforcement every year and yet Australia has the highest rate of cannabis consumption in the world. Criminal gangs make tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in profit annually.
Surely it is time for another way.
The Australia21 report backed by Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, and former NSW DPP, Nicholas Cowdery, called for an urgent rethink on the country’s drug laws. Following on from this, a group of grassroots cannabis activists will be holding a ‘4/20’ demonstration outside NSW Parliament House this Friday (20/4).
NSW Greens MPs David Shoebridge and John Kaye, as well as representatives from the Sex Party will be in attendance to argue for the immediate introduction of medicinal marijuana for patients suffering serious ailments such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, post traumatic stress disorder, and wasting illnesses.
Sex Party President, Fiona Patten said that since the widespread introduction of synthetic cannabis products into Australia’s tobacconists and adult shops over two years ago, many elderly and infirm people were buying these products as a better alternative to pharmaceutical analgesics and mood enhancers. “The AMA has led a dishonest and zealous crusade against these products without offering any research or statistics to back their claims that they are more harmful than pharmaceutical drugs”, she said. “State governments have simply taken the advice and lobbying of mining companies and the AMA on these products and banned them and now we are seeing an explosion in the number of new drugs on the street trying to beat these bans. Governments need to regulate and decriminalise these drugs so they can better control them and protect the health of the community”.
Ms Patten leaves Australia today for one week of meetings with officials in Portugal who were responsible for that country’s decriminalisation of all drugs a decade ago.
Activists from the Cannabis Coalition will also be echoing the recent words of Foreign Minister Bob Carr who has called for at least the decriminalisation of cannabis use and minor possession as a first step towards a more rational drugs policy.
“In Australia alone, up to $4.7b is spent annually on the ‘War on Drugs’ – coined by former US President Richard Nixon in the 1970s but ongoing since the early part of the 20th century,” Serkan Ozturk, from the Cannabis Coalition said.
“For all that money, two thirds of all drug arrests in Australia are for cannabis-related offences. And in the state of NSW, up to 75 per cent of all annual cannabis related charges are for simple possession or use.”
Marijuana use in Australia is three times the global average, with over one in three (34 per cent) admitting to its consumption.
Furthermore, a November 2010 study published in The Lancet by the world-leading Professor David Nutt (and which has been backed by subsequent studies by his team) demonstrates that cannabis is a relatively safe drug both for the individual and wider society, particularly when compared to other completely legal and popular alternatives like alcohol, tobacco and various prescription pills like benzodiazepines.
Yet, almost all the billions of dollars of public funds to “fight” or “battle” drugs spent in Australia is wasted on chasing people who like to consume a naturally growing plant that evolutionary evidence shows originated on this planet thousands of years before humans ever did. For the past decade, just over two thirds of all illicit drugs related arrests in the country are cannabis related.
Countries like Portugal and Mexico have already seen the error in treating drug use as a criminal issue rather than one of a complex nature pertaining to health and societal demands. Within the next five years, it is likely the US states of Colorado and California will legalise cannabis for recreational use; thus freeing up billions of dollars from bloated police budgets, and renewing their respective economies via new income streams.
Macizza Macpherson, from the Cannabis Coalition, said it is time for people to stand up for their rights and against hypocrisy.
“We are not asking for radical changes, we are asking for common sense,” he said.
Cost of War on Drugs in Australia: http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-cost-of-the-war-on-drugs-20091002-ggiw.html
Cannabis and Policing in NSW/Australia: http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-cost-of-the-war-on-drugs-20091002-ggiw.html
Research conducted by Professor David Nutt on harms of drugs: www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2961462-6/fulltext
Australians biggest users of cannabis in the world: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-01-06/aussies-kiwis-lead-world-in-cannabis-use/3761106