The Nimbin-based HEMP Party plans to run senate candidates in every state at the next federal election and are pushing for a national drug summit in a bid to get drug-law reform on the agenda.
The move follows what many drug-law reform campaigners say is exasperating inaction by government over the latest expert report recommending decriminalisation.
HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) Party president Michael Balderstone says ‘politicians are very scared of making any changes in this area despite successful programs overseas’.
The second report by the not-for-profit think tank Australia21, called Alternatives to Prohibition, recommends that cannabis and ecstasy be decriminalised for people aged 16 and older willing to be recorded on a national confidential user register. Users would be able to buy drugs from an approved supplier, such as a chemist.
The report says prohibition has failed, leaving the manufacture and supply of illicit drugs in the hands of ‘criminal elements’ without proper safeguards and quality control.
Mr Balderstone says a national drug summit ‘would be enlightening for the politicians who are largely out of touch with the world of illegal drugs and the consequences and street life for so many that go with it’.
Mr Balderstone told Echonetdaily, ‘we’ve been band-aiding those consequences for decades here in Nimbin, which has long been a refugee camp from the war on drugs.
‘Our politicians are loath to pick up this issue yet Australia is in desperate need for a real discussion on the topic which a drug summit may provide.
‘I would be totally confident the experts will keep recommending similar changes to the Aust21 Report, but will the pollies act on the advice?
‘Hopefully at a drug summit they will take the gag off the health, social and youth workers who are paid by them but not allowed to criticise government policies.
‘Maybe even some courageous police will speak truthfully about how the “drug war” is going?
‘There are plenty of overseas examples now of drug-law reform, which we can study and learn from, where drug use is increasingly seen as a health issue, which of course it is.
‘In half of the American states you can now grow your own medicinal cannabis or buy from a dispensary and all the early studies show important social changes. Suicide rates have dropped sharply and alcohol use and car accidents are down.
‘Honest education and regulation is the future and such an approach will deglamorise drug use for teens and bring in quality control, not to mention the potential of legally employing thousands of people in an industry they clearly like.
‘It’s a win, win, win for everyone except Big Pharma, the alcohol and jail industries, and organised crime. The police are probably terrified of losing their power with drug-law reform, but prohibition has bred so much disrespect they’ll have plenty to do for a long time yet.’
The Australia21 report proposes cannabis could be controlled with taxation, where growers and sellers are subject to strict licences for cultivation.
Former Australian Federal Police commissioner, Mick Palmer, said criminalisation had failed to deter drug users and policing of the illicit drug market had only marginal effect on the profitability of the drug trade or availability of illicit drugs.
The report calls on the government to consider examples overseas, such as Portugal and Switzerland, which have used decriminalisation in combination with law-enforcement measures and have produced positive health benefits to users without increasing the rate of drug use.
It also called for a national drug summit to be held next year.
The Gillard government has rejected calls to decriminalising cannabis and ecstasy, as it did after the release of the first report.
Federal MP for Page Janelle Saffin’s office has ignored repeated requests for comment, while Richmond MP Justine Elliot did respond to Echonetdaily requests, but only to give the official government line maintaining prohibition.