The war on drugs has failed, writes Angelo Pricolo… which is why the Greens’ new approach is so important
It is hard to do anything but agree with almost every point the Greens advocate for with regard to drug reform in this country. Their leader has pushed a new policy platform endorsed by his party at their national conference in Perth.
Richard Di Natale, a drug and alcohol doctor in a previous life, has had much experience in the sector and also went on a fact-finding mission to Portugal recently. The now 15-year-old Portugal experience is still one of the most compelling pieces of evidence we have and not learning from it is an exercise in negligence.
As Di Natale said in his statement “this policy… is killing our kids.”
But he also accepts that he is in for lots of backlash from the conservative media. “I’m ready for it. I think it’s about time Australia had this conversation.”
Other changes such as pill testing and needle exchange programs in jails are also vitally important measures to discuss. Many groups are calling for these measures for good reason.
Added to this list is also safe injecting or consumption facilities. These would provide an interface of treatment that currently does not exist outside of the successful operation at Kings Cross in Sydney. What an overwhelming difference this simple and sensible measure has made to this community.
Pharmacists should applaud the efforts of the Greens in facilitating this discussion as they are measures that will save lives and money. This money could be diverted to treatment and education.
Most agree that education is the cornerstone of the plan that should take over from “the war on drugs” mantle.
Let’s hope more MPs join the Australian Parliamentary Group on Drug Law Reform and Australia develops a model that can transform our policy on drugs. More discussion will help clarify the difference between legalisation and decriminalisation, the latter the most likely and best-supported model.
The experience in Portugal has taught us many things but many argue the most important of these being the change in numbers of young people seeking help. In Australia, we have created an environment where people who want to seek help don’t because they have to admit to engaging in illegal activity.
Changing policy could have the effect of decreasing teenage drug use, crime, disease and overdoses. Let’s make the changes instead of continuing down a punitive path that has failed to stop illicit drugs use and will continue to fail our children.
Angelo Pricolo is a National Councillor with The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and a member of the PSA Harm Minimisation Committee.