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Letter in The West Australian – Drug Decriminalisation in Western Australia

April 17, 2012
Published April 16, 2012
The opinion piece by Dr George O’Neil about drug decriminalisation (Drug policy needs fresh start, 9/4) was a great read, yet raised questions about why more funding isn’t being provided to this tried and tested method of helping the drug addicted.
Here in Western Australia, a Bill is currently being debated on tighter laws against prostitution; an industry the Premier admits will never disappear. This led me to believe the bill currently being debated is merely treating a symptom of the original disease.
The disease is drug addiction. While I’m assured women enter prostitution on their own will, it would be hard to deny some are in the industry to support a drug habit.
If or when these women are arrested, they are either fined or thrown in jail, only to repeat the vicious circle of using and reoffending. Instead of legislating against prostitution as an industry, politicians should be finding ways to prevent people getting addicted to drugs to begin with.
I believe a diversion of funding between Government departments is the first step towards a change in Western Australia.
Initially, enough funding should be provided to Dr O’Neil’s rehabilitation centres, followed by other centres modelled on the concept, spread around the state and in our prisons.
If addicted, and depending on the crime committed, a person would be treated at a rehabilitation centre followed by assistance in regaining independence away from drugs.
The flow on effects start from there: fewer addicts on the street means less crime, in turn more police on the street; our hospitals no longer clogged with drug overdoses, our courthouses no longer congested with petty crime, leading to our prisons no longer being stuffed with drug addicts who currently don’t get the help they need.  
The debate would inevitably lead to how we regard drugs in society, and whether the war on drugs over the past six decades has succeeded in stemming the flow and harm of drugs on our community.
It’s time politicians got serious about fixing the underlying problem, instead of applying bandaid fixes that do not only push drug dealers and addicts underground, but does nothing more than add red-tape to an already overregulated industry.

Denis Terrell,

Port Kennedy

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One Comment
  1. Quite right Denis,
    In 1954, 73% of Australian men smoked. Cigarettes have been legal and freely available since then, yet with the right education, only 17% of Aussie males smoke now. If drugs were legal, taxed and regulated, the money from the taxes could be used to look after those who choose to use drugs and inevitably fall ill. Now, we all pay for it and the users don’t contribute through taxes as does the tobacco industry.
    The war is lost. We cannot keep drugs out of our jails, let alone off the streets. Drug users and their families are not criminals, nor even bad people, they are just drug users and many are addicted. You are right. It’s a health issue.
    The criminalisation issue keeps our jails full of users and those who are involved upstream in the enterprise, as well as those who need to steal to fund a habit and it creates a criminal enterprise in manufacturing or growing and distributing the stuff. We could balance the budget by emptying the prisons of drug users and pushers, who would be all out of a job if drugs where cheap and government controlled.
    Then there is the Taliban! In Afghanistan alone, the Taliban collects $1 billion pa from local drug industry activities to fund their insurgency. Legalise drugs and the Taliban and all the Mexican drug lords would be out of work.

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