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Byron Shire
October 28, 2021

It’s ‘time to change drug laws’

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A panel of cannabis experts and campaigners have called for civil disobedience and other action as part of a renewed push to reform drug laws that they say are destroying families and communities and making criminals of otherwise law-abiding young people.

The call was made at the 20th annual MardiGrass cannabis law reform rally at Nimbin on Sunday and followed hot on the heels of the Australia21 Report, which concludes the war on drugs is a failure and urges a serious discussion on decriminalising marijuana and other drugs.

Prime minister Julia Gillard came under fire recently from drug-law reform campaigners when she immediately dismissed the findings of the report by experts including a former federal police commissioner.

Up to 100 people attended the Nimbin Town Hall debate, which looked at taking the next step in the campaign against cannabis prohibition.

Former NSW MLC Ann Symonds, the founder of the Australian Parliamentary Group on Drug Law Reform, said that the time had come ‘to get active again’ and revitalise movements against prohibition.

The former Labor MLC said Australia should follow the lead from Europe where much recent positive drug-law reform had taken place ‘and we need to get it done here’.

Ms Symonds said it was ‘an absurd situation’ Australia was in ‘where we demonise some drugs but not others’, and reform had to happen state by state rather than federally.

She said people power was important in reform, as was the case with getting a medically supervised drug-injection centre in Kings Cross approved after the NSW Drug Summit in the late 1990s.

Ms Symonds said she would re-enter the fight against prohibition especially to legalise medical marijuana, used by cancer sufferers.

Australian Drug Law Reform president Dr Alex Wodak said the Australia21 report should ‘encourage’ the anti-prohibition movement.

‘The chances of us turning this thing around is looking different from just a few years ago; if there’s a co-ordinated disciplined campaign we could make inroads with this,’ he said.

Dr Wodak, a former director of the Australia21 group, said he felt civil disobedience was ‘sometimes the only way to win a particular argument’.

He said without civil disobedience, the injection centre and trial at Kings Cross would never have gone ahead.

Dr Wodak said campaigners had to see it as their ‘duty’ to write letters to newspapers and politicians urging for reform because ‘if enough people get the message out, things will change faster’.

‘Our opponents are winning the propaganda wars; we’re way behind,’ he said.

Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party secretary Graham Askey said support for his political party was ‘disappointing’, especially given that 50,000 Australians were arrested every year for drug possession.

‘Over 20 years, that’s a million people; we should be doing much better in electoral terms,’ he said.

Politicians ‘afraid’

Mr Askey said campaigners had to ‘get politicians not to be afraid’ of being pilloried by radio shock jocks if they took a stand for reform, as the top broadcaster Alan Jones was ‘on our side’ on the decriminalisation issue.

Moose, who ran the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in the 1980s, said at its peak the group had 10,000 members and rallies drew up to 5,000 people.

‘And that was pre-internet age, and technologies have changed so we should take advantage of that. I want the laws changed so my kids and grandson don’t have to grow up with prohibition,’ Moose said.

Panel mediator Rak Razam said the Australia21 Report ‘says it’s time for a change’ but critical mass support of people was needed, and that meant lobbying lawmakers.

Activist Matt Riley said in the US more than 50 per cent of people favour legalising marijuana ‘because they are more informed on the issues, unlike in Australia where it’s all repressed and the information is not there’.

‘We need to stand up and be visible. I’d like to see 20,000 people smoke in public,’ he said to applause.

Mr Riley said people supporting reform feared the opposition’s ‘totalitarian mentality’, which accused them of being ‘soft on drugs’.

Mr Askey said if the 50,000 people charged with drug possession each pleaded not guilty ‘the whole system would collapse’.

Lawyer Steve Bolt said the vast majority of Australians favoured drug law reform.

‘There may be as many as five million people; we have to let go of the idea that we’re a struggling minority. It’s a no-brainer, there’s no war to be fought, we’re part of a majority wanting change’.

Dr Wodak said the debate would not be won in Nimbin so the argument had to be pitched to the ‘twinsets-and-pearls ladies of St Ives to win them over’, preferably mums.

He said 69 per cent of Australians, and growing, supported medical cannabis and 75 per cent of those supported a trial of medical cannabis.

He said cancer sufferers should be prepared to go public for the cause and they could ‘change the debate around because Australians are compassionate people’.

He said the pharmaceutical industry, like the tobacco and alcohol lobbies, actively worked to derail drug law reform.

Moose said that like the gay liberation movement, people needed to be fearless about action and come out of the closet in order and get the message across.

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  1. Hope you are listening to this Gillard- you useless sickophant. Your people have spoken, we have the majority, you have to act. Dont forget WE put you there; we can make you leave too. Also, Australia has always been so quick to follow, suck up, and pander to America over the years. Its embarrassing, but true. This is not the Australian public mind you, but the governments at the time. Have to be a good little country, and do as Big Brother USA says…
    Well Julia, heres your big chance to get buddy buddy with America, since it was California that has been the first to set up legal Medical Marajuana Shopfronts, all under the overall watchful eye of Mr. Obama……a self confessed toker himself. If its good enough for the most powerful country and man in the world; who are you to disagree.
    At this stage of this long-winded arguement, and with all the support and evidence provided, the question has to be why are you refusing to act Gillard. Even if you stick to your guns and remain negative on the arguement, the same preassure will be placed on the next government when you are given the inevidable ass.
    I dont agree or consent to you wasting my Tax dollars on this useless and expensive war on a drug that has so many proven qualities. I wonder what you would say if you, or one of your family got Cancer and requested it. Look them in their pain-filled eyes and say ‘no’ Julia.
    Might aswell agree, get some popularity and respect, and not only be the first female PM, but the first with enough balls to put this arguement to rest once and for all and say ‘YES’.

  2. Any government which declares, or continues, a war against its own citizens is in no way fit or capable of governing, and should be charged with treason and criminal wrongdoing.

  3. The only way 2 move forward is 2 stand with the Commonwealth Constitution, u no da 1 thats their 2 protect all the good Sovereign people of Aust.
    The Magna Carta guarantees Freedom, Rights & responsibilities 1215. The Magna Carta is Common Law. The Law of the Land (Common Law) is a jury of 12 people.
    A single Judge is NOT equal – & can never be – Because no individual is unbiased.
    Habeas Corpus Act secured in 1679. The Bill of Rights 1688, with additional protections it is Common Law. In 1899, Adopted in a Referendum by the good Sovereign people of Australia, & In 1900
    became our most important DEED. read more

    “Without Prejudice”
    remind them that an order by a single Magistrate is ? a Judiciary Order – it is illegal, because it is a violation of Common Law & comes under Slavery in the Criminal Code Act 1995 Sect 268.10

    Any council laws that conflict with Common Law are illegal. Proper rules are not oppressive – they are there to protect freedoms.
    In 1996, the High Court of Australia, the Highest Court in the land
    Sect 71 in what is known as the Kable Principal, declared that the Commonwealth remains one & invisible – just as we all do-Stand united with only one Judicial Power- ? Not different rules in each state. read more
    On September 5th 2006 all seven (7) High Court Judges stated unanimously that You’re “our” Commonweath Constitution reigns supreme – and all other Laws & Rules are subject to the Commonwealth Constitution- so if any Laws conflict with it, they are invailed and illegal. Sect 109 when a Law of the state is inconsistent with the Laws of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, & the former shall’ to the extent of the inconsistency, be invailid. read more
    So you see my good Sovereign “brothers & Sisters” made of flesh blood & Spirit, the Commonwealth Constitution was hammered out over Centuries by very Wise men of Spirit. who foresaw that evil individuals, organizations, local councils, & Gov’s would try to get around the Commonwealth Constitution to fulfill their republician power lust, and to line their own pockets. So ‘ So the Wise men built safe guards in2 the Commonwealth-Constitution ; So Know yr Constitutional Rights , the Courts belong 2 da people since 1215.
    Minds are like Parachutes ? they work best when there Open ……… 2 all my Bro’s in Arms made of flesh, blood & Spirit may the universal energies deliver us 2 take bak da Power “freedom” . Nobi
    Limited liability, all rights reserved

  4. Just to let the ganja warriors know that their is a total Media black out in the mainstream City Life of Mr Citizen
    As You can see by the numbers and the continuing Police Harassment your cause is being marginalised totally
    Until 2000 people are arrested on the same day and willing to do time or be part of a class action against the fascist state laws Ninbin will remain a stoem in a tea cup.
    Wars are much more profitable than giving people basic human rights and the freedom to choose
    As I have stated before the Police are mainly ex footy thugs, with brains the size of peanuts, they are all meat-head Alcoholics Just like their Masters the Politicians THE CHURCH AND tHE MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS.
    Jah Rastafari, lets hope for a Vegan non violent World.
    It is way overdue to bring back Alcohol Prohibition anyway. Also Speed Kills, it is an evil Drug . Peace to All

  5. “It is way overdue to bring back Alcohol Prohibition anyway. Also Speed Kills, it is an evil Drug”

    That’s a ridiculous and ignorant double standard. You can’t claim that your favorite drug should be legal but others should be banned. It’s been proven before that prohibition works just as poorly with alcohol as it does with any other drug. I’m no fan of booze, but that doesn’t mean that banning it is the best solution to the problems it can cause.

    The best way forward is to legalize and tax the lot of them then invest the profits in treatment and harm reduction. Or at the very least, adopt a drug policy based on logic and science, not fear and rhetoric and political pandering.

    100 years of prohibition has failed utterly, and in fact made the problem of addiction worse than ever while turning our citizens into criminals and our suburbs into war zones. It’s time for another approach.


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