Drug reform

Dave Lisle, Goonengerry

It was encouraging to read in last week’s Echonetdaily that Australians want drug law reform not more drug war. Equally disheartening was the news that the NSW Labor opposition will not deviate from the current law and order approach.

The war on drugs began a century ago in response to racial anxieties, and while expatriate Chinese opium smokers were its first target, the pursuit of a drug free society has subsequently been the means by which to persecute and demonise any number of groups.

Yet as cracks appear in the edifice of prohibition globally, the objectives of Australia’s drug war remain most uncertain. It seems to have become a war fought largely for its own sake; an institutional virus.

How else to view the legally sanctioned indecent assaults – aka strip searches – of young women by police officers at Byron Shire music festivals; the 148,363 people arrested in Australia for possessing illicit drugs in 2018 (the latest available data), the overwhelming majority (91 per cent) of whom were in possession of small quantities for personal use; the drug testing of drivers – without reference to impairment of driving ability – under the guise of ‘road safety’; and the Federal government’s recent (but currently mothballed) initiative to drug test certain Centrelink clients?

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