Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett has launched a report endorsing decriminalisation of illicit drugs, including cannabis. With his stance, Kennett said he has “come a long way” on drug policy.
The report, compiled by think tank Australia21, comes on the heels of a round table meeting between former police commissioners, prosecutors, judges and advocates. The document urges politicians to devise a testing regime that will allow people to ensure the safety of the product they consume. It calls for decriminalisation of drugs like cannabis and establishing safe spaces for taking drugs.
Through the report – titled "Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?” – Kennett expressed his criticism towards politicians for not doing something new. "I've come a long way over the years in terms of my attitude to drugs [and] those who take it," he said. "My attitude to those who peddle them and make money from them hasn't changed at all, except that perhaps I've gone further to the right than I was initially on their futures when we … apprehend them.”
A batch of MDMA consumed by patrons in popular South Yarra nightclubs earlier this year caused the deaths of three people. Last year saw as many as 173 deaths across Victoria from heroin. This was a 25 percent spike from 2014 and the highest statistic recorded since early 2000s.
A large proportion of deaths caused by heroin overdose in 2015 were attributed to mixing with other drugs, including benzodiazepines and minor tranquillisers taken for anxiety and sleep problems, pharmaceutical opioids and alcohol. Mixing of drugs is responsible for almost two-thirds of overdose deaths, as noted by the Victorian Coroner's Office.
Other than a safe injecting facility established in Sydney, Kennett noted there had been no "seminal advance" in the last four or five decades. The report recommended launching more safe injecting facilities in other parts of the country.
Former St Vincent's Hospital physician Dr Alex Wodak expressed his views against drug prohibition. "Drug prohibition is also unfair and unjust, was not based on good evidence, is now flagrantly contradicted by good evidence and was developed with poor processes," he said.
Some of the other recommendations made in the report included regulation and tax models, looking to overseas experiences, shifting psychoactive drugs from the black market to the white market, introduction of drug testing and expanding opioid substitution treatments. It also called for an effective marketing strategy to accompany decriminalisation of drugs like cannabis.