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Byron Shire
August 5, 2021

Election candidates disclose their drug use history

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In Australia there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness on Australia via national and local community events

With Greens MP Cate Faehrmann’s admission recently that she has taken illegal substances, what better opportunity to ask the three state election candidates about their own drug use?

Three candidates that have so far declared their intention to run for the NSW election seat of Ballina on March 23 are incumbent MP Tamara Smith (Greens), Asren Pugh (Labor) and Ben Franklin MLC (Nationals).

The Echo asked all three if they had ‘ever taken an illegal substance, and if so, what?’

Local Ballina MP Tamara Smith told The Echo, ‘It’s difficult to answer this question publicly but it’s time we had an honest conversation about drugs because the war on drugs has failed.’

Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith smoked weed, tried ecstasy in her younger years . Photo Tree Faerie.

‘In my younger years I smoked pot and I tried ecstasy.’

She said, ‘The real issue is whether or not we take steps to protect people’s lives because people do try substances – legal and illegal – that can harm them.’

‘I believe we need to treat personal drug use as a health issue and that it is by increasing education, counselling and support for people that we will reduce drug use – and that’s a good thing.’

Nationals candidate Ben Franklin tried marijuana at university.

Ben Franklin MLC (Nationals) told The Echo, ‘Like many others of my generation, I tried marijuana when I was at university. I have never taken any other illegal substance and have not smoked marijuana since then.’

Franklin reiterated his position on pill testing and said, ‘On a personal level, I am not opposed to the consideration of pill testing. However any policy change in this area must be evidence-based and developed after advice from local and international experts and examining experience from around the world. I think it’s very difficult to do that during the heightened emotional climate of an election campaign.’

ALP candidate Asren Pugh tried pot and MDMA. Photo supplied

Labor candidate Asren Pugh told The Echo ‘Yes’.

‘In the past I have tried an illegal substance, marijuana and MDMA, a few times, but those days are firmly behind me.’

Pugh also responded to comments by Nationals candidate Ben Franklin, who told The Byron News (Newscorp) last week that ‘the [pill testing] issue cannot be considered rationally and sensibly during the heat of a campaign.’

Pugh said, ’The whole reason we have an election campaign is to tell people what we stand for, who we are and what we believe in.’

Slogans v policy

Pugh said, ‘Slogans just don’t cut it.

‘So is Mr Franklin saying that this election is not about policy? I am in this to talk about ideas and try and make this area, my home, a better, safer and even more beautiful place to live. I am in this to talk about what I would do to make life a little bit easier for my community. And that means having the courage to have the hard conversations and talk about hard issues.’

Greens MP Smith agreed with Pugh that the public debate on pill testing and drugs should be had.

She said, ‘It is absolutely ridiculous to duck the issue by claiming we can’t talk about this at the exact time that the public deserves to have real answers to real questions before they vote.’

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    • Caffeine is also a drug, without which a lot of politics would simply stop.
      And I would figure that simply running this story is evidence that this is not a conservative media platform…

    • “The Echo asked all three if they had ‘ever taken an ***illegal*** substance, and if so, what?’”

      You’re jumping at (conservative media) shadows methinks.

    • Tamara said, ‘The real issue is whether or not we take steps to protect people’s lives because people do try substances – legal and illegal – that can harm them.’

      The debate all too often focuses on the illegal variety but Tamara has attempted to be inclusive of the most dangerous and widespread drug of choice – Alcohol.

      I think that Hans and everyone with a brain realises that alcohol is ‘assumed’ to be included… but obviously there are some who need it spelled out and for the sake of keeping this card on the table it should ALWAYS be mentioned.

      The alcohol hypocrisy is pathetic. ‘Jesus drank wine so alcohol is ok’ is pretty much the the only argument that most of the anti-drug campaigners and legislators can muster.

      Look at the enormous amounts of money claimed on our politicians expense accounts for the consumption of alcohol. Why aren’t they breath-tested before they vote on legislation. It is obvious that with that amount of consumption they are pretty much pissed all the time.

  1. Be careful what you admit too…
    Admitting to using illegal drugs can be a cause of refusal of entry into the USA

    Editor: PLEASE NOTE please do not put my full name on the post or please DON’T post it

  2. When three out of three politicians asked replied in the affirmative, isn’t it time we made the whole drug thing safer,take all the nasties off the street so if those who wish to partake, can do so with safety


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