February 2020

The regulation of all drugs is a pragmatic, effective way to take control
All Media Room

In a Guardian opinion piece, Matt Noffs, CEO of the Ted Noffs Foundation, has eloquently explained the jargon that confuses many people when discussing drug law reform in Australia.

He notes that Prof Dan Howard SC, head of the special inquiry into illicit amphetamine use in New South Wales, has recommended that the government decriminalise illegal use of all drugs. He further observes that many people wonder just what that really means.

Noffs explains the difference between depenalisation, decriminalisation and regulation.

Depenalisation means taking the penalty out of the crime. If you are caught with illegal drugs it’s a crime, but you are offered treatment instead of a fine or jail time.

Decriminalisation means that possessing illegal drugs for personal use ceases to be a crime altogether. However, there may still be penalties such as a fine. Just as a parking infringement isn’t a criminal offence but you still get fined. Often, the fine will be waived if the person accepts referral to treatment.

Regulation means to fully legalise drugs but to control their supply through a government or commercial market. This is the current situation in Australia in relation to substances like alcohol and tobacco.

He compares these approaches to the current policy of prohibition. As he points out, this approach spends a great deal of money on arresting people, in court time and on locking people up – all with little hope of changing behaviours. Prohibition offers not much in terms of control and clearly does not stop large chunks of our society from taking drugs.

Noffs then offers a passionate argument for full regulation of all drugs. Only full regulation will allow us to take control of the current situation. We need a regulated supply of drugs, where doctors and pharmacists, rather than dealers, are in control of someone’s dependency.

Regulating drugs doesn’t mean unmitigated use. It seeks to take control of a harmful substance (just as with alcohol and tobacco), ban advertising, limit its reach to young people and use the taxes this creates to provide help to those who are harmed by its use.

A pragmatic approach like this will change things for the better. It will create a healthier and safer society where harms to our children are reduced and lives saved.

Read the full article here

Prof Dan Howard has recommended that the NSW government ‘decriminalise’ illicit drug use. Photo credit: Joel Carrett/AAP