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Byron Shire
May 26, 2024

Call for cocaine regulation and taxation in NSW

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Cocaine. Photo Christian Charisius/dpa

Sydney saw five deaths last week, 11 known recent deaths, that are believed to be linked to cocaine supply. Now there is a call to rethink NSW’s approach to drugs, and in particular cocaine, its supply and regulation. 

Greens MP and Drug Law Reform and Harm Reduction spokesperson Cate Faehrmann is calling for all options to be on the table in a bid to end the drug war, including taxing and regulating cocaine.

MLC Cate Faehrmann. Photo Tree Faerie

‘Despite mounting evidence of its abject failure, the pointless war on drugs cycle continues. Nothing from the NSW government, from police bureaucrats or from most of the media is any different to what’s been said or attempted in recent decades,’ said Cate Faehrmann.

In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday Ms Faehrmann calls for the legalisation of cocaine saying the standard approach of the war on drugs of increasing police numbers and cracking down is not working.

‘Nothing from the NSW government, from police bureaucrats or from conservative media is any different from what’s been said or attempted in recent decades,’ she stated. 

Cocaine. Photo Marco Verch www.flickr.com/photos.

Australia’s love affair with cocaine

Matt Noffs, CEO of the Noffs Foundation (NOFFS) whose services focus on helping young people with drug, crime and mental health issues told The Echo that, ‘cocaine will not be regulated anytime soon. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be, but a lot of people don’t know how long Australia’s love affair with cocaine has been. It was the 1920s when we first fell in love with cocaine in Australia – that’s evidenced by ongoing use and by how much we are willing to pay for it. You could almost call it a heritage drug. 

‘A lot of people in London are flabbergasted by the high cost of cocaine in Australia,’ he said. 

Mr Noffs pointed out that this is not just a state issue but a federal government issue as well as the Australian Federal Police (AFP) find it very difficult to manage the cocaine black market.

‘Cocaine is an old and heritage drug of Australia along with alcohol. This is not something that is getting out of control – it has been out of control for 100 years. Most Australians don’t believe that the current regime works but we have to be careful of laissez faire legalisation.’

The NSW Ice Inquiry, chaired by Special Commissioner Dan Howard, SC, recommended ‘that the government needs to introduce a system of decriminalisation if it is going to stop drug deaths in New South Wales’. However, then NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet,  rejected the recommendation to decriminalise use of illicit drugs. 

Drug summit 

Mr Noffs said that a drug summit to look at ways forward would be a really effective way to bring the wide range of ideas to the table for discussion, similar to the approach taken to heroin in the 1990s. 

‘We need to think about how we addressed issues like heroin which we did reduce use of without outright legalisation,’ he said. 

‘The way we dealt with heroin was multifaceted. It included treatment, needle exchange programs, and the most radical idea was the medical injecting centre. This approach did something critical, it sent the message that said this was a health issue.’

He said that selling cocaine over the counter was not likely to happen in the next ten years, perhaps the next 20, but the most important part of the response was to ‘utilise the current systems and services and progress legislation to make it both safer for the community and to reduce the criminalisation’.

Cocaine in Canberra

Matt pointed out that when he last checked, and it could have changed, that the highest level of use of cocaine was in Canberra. 

‘Cocaine use has a difficult aspect – the cohort of users are middle to upper class. The big issue we have got with cocaine users, is that to afford it in the first place, they are regularly people with very good jobs and who use it on a recreational basis on the weekend and at work,’ explained Noffs. 

‘These are people who work in banks, law firms, possibly even Parliament House. The critical issue is that you are not looking for support for poor people, as with heroin, as many of the people using it don’t have a drug problem in that sense. But for those people who do have a drug problem with cocaine they need support for drug treatment. The issue with cocaine is it does need better regulation. 

‘The answer is not just jumping to outright legalisation but to call a drug summit. There is really no point criminalising someone using cocaine because it is mostly well-to-do Australians in banks and parliament. We really need to be saying, if it is that embedded in our culture the most obvious thing to do is stop criminalising it. But then how do we deal with people who are severely addicted to it and how do we help them first and foremost? How do we help the police do their job and help them manage it? 

‘If you ask people like Mick Palmer, former AFP commissioner, he would say it is impossible to stop the influx of cocaine so a drug summit is a pragmatic approach. This is something the government could do without hesitation, they could hold a drug summit and that is a place where radical ideas can come to the forefront and sit with pragmatic ideas and move the state forward.’


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9 COMMENTS

  1. Well of course, we need to legalise Cocaine for the rich and famous!
    Especially for those users in Canberra, where they or their children being busted for drug use could be embarrassing for politicians, judges and the ‘well to do’, as is already the case for marijuana legalisation in Canberra.
    I find it hard though to see any justification for making any drug illegal anywhere, firstly because it doesn’t work and more importantly it fuels the violence we all see increasingly on the nightly news. Even though it does provide a very welcome addition to police incomes I’m convinced they will, in no time, devise other profitable avenues for corruption.
    There is no rational excuse to criminalise personal drug use, The only requirement for the government is to provide TRUTHFUL information on the effects and dangers inherent in the use of any substance, including water.
    Cheers, G”)

    • The leaves of the Coca plant are used to treat asthma, and allergies that don’t respond to pharmaceuticals. At this time of year when our local wattles are flowering, I can’t drive my Porsche with the top-down due to all the pollen. I support legalising this vital medicinal plant.

  2. Yeh!!!!!!!!!!
    If you legalise then you can control & tax!!!
    Sure there would be some underground sales but look at alcohol!! & cigarettes. Supplied, taxed & controlled to a point. At least you could make money from the taxes to help where things & health go wrong !!!

  3. That’s bs i was an addicted now not. the government are more corrupted then the dealers that deal it. So it there a choice over who best to deal with this issue it’s not the government al all. All the government is after I’m the bottom line and money they don’t care bout people it the stat’s and numbers on a spreadsheet

  4. What about the death penalty third people don’t care about anything but them self’s regardless of who they hurt peddling this dangerous drug and
    it’s dealers why is only the rich bcan afford it a the poor pay in advance for a moment of joy while the washing machines working properly for the rich man who spends 300 000 a month in rehab

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