Attorney-General should take the lead on drug reform

Sat, 2012-04-07 09:43 -- SACCL

7th April, 2012

Attorney-General should take the lead on drug reform

The SA Council for Civil Liberties (SACCL) is calling on the Attorney-General, John Rau, to take the lead in discussion on drug law reform, following the release of The Australia 21 Report; “The Prohibition of Illicit Drugs is Killing and Criminalising our Children and we are all Letting it Happen” (see

SACCL Chairperson, Claire O’Connor, says that like the failed attempt at prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s drug prevention through prohibition is failing today. The SACCL points out that Australia 21 calls for urgent reform and the A21 report says, “The current approach to illicit drug use puts these drugs into the hands of criminals and exposes young people, police and politicians to their corruptive influence”.

SACCL says that large numbers of people are affected by the abuse of illicit drugs, whether it be our homes that are broken into to fund drug habits, our children dying from overdoses of drugs, or the victims of drug abuse filling our jails and hospitals. Clearly prohibition has not stopped the trade in drugs and its effects on our community. It is now time to discuss alternatives and the Report attempts to encourage law makers to do just that.

The SACCL encourages South Australia’s Attorney-General to not reject the Report out of hand, but to consider its recommendations.

The Global Commission On Drugs, reporting in 2011, advised that in the past ten years there has been a worldwide increase in the use illicit drugs. Opioid use has increased by 35%, cocaine by 27% and cannabis by 8.5%. After four decades of ‘the war on drugs’ which has seen many nations in the world increase penalties for the use, possession and sale of drugs, it is clear that these increases demonstrate a failure of the punitive approach. SACCL says that drug abuse is a health issue and should be dealt with accordingly.

The SACCL reminds the Attorney General that alcohol is in fact the drug with the greatest negative social impact yet there are limited controls on its sale and supply. This view too was contained in the Australia 21 Report whose signatories include many prominent Australians including former Health Ministers from both Federal and State parliaments.

“South Australia was once at the forefront of drug law reform. We can once again take the lead if we embark upon a rational discussion encouraged by this important document,” said Ms O’Connor.