Report urges review of cannabis laws

LEGALISING cannabis for recreational use should be researched by a new government advisory council, a long-awaited Victorian parliamentary report has recommended.

The reform called for a newly created Victorian body to probe whether adults be allowed to indulge in marijuana in what could be seen as the beginning of a new approach to drugs.

It is one of 50 recommendations put forward - resulting from the biggest ever state review of drug laws - and will now be now considered by the Andrews Government.

The general consensus from the parliamentary panel was Victoria could 'no longer arrest its way out of the drug crisis' prompting the controversial range of reforms.

Big Day Out. Flemington Racecourse. Melbourne. 2013. Police use sniffer dogs to search festival goers for drugs.
Big Day Out. Flemington Racecourse. Melbourne. 2013. Police use sniffer dogs to search festival goers for drugs.

The report also called for:

A REVIEW of the impact of sniffer dogs at music festivals and whether it caused harm by encouraging youths to ingest large quantities of drugs.

POLICE not charging people caught with small quantities of drugs, instead referring them to drug rehabilitation;

CREATING a real-time warning system to alert users and hospitals about new and dangerous drugs;

ALL new government drug policies to undergo independent reviews on their cost and effect;

DRUG -DRIVING laws should be changed to include more drugs and clearer impairment limits;

HARMS and benefits of sniffer dogs at events should be reviewed to stop people swallowing large quantities at entry points;

MORE flexibility on the ­punishments handed to parolees caught taking drugs; and

INTRODUCING new pharmaceutical options for heroin treatment.

Victoria police carrying out road checks. Picture: Chris Eastman
Victoria police carrying out road checks. Picture: Chris Eastman

Committee Chair, Geoff Howard MP revealed over 230 submissions were received and the recommendations were created after the committee had honest discussions about why people use drugs.

"Historically, the approach to drugs both internationally and in Australia was based

on prohibition of recreational drug use, although there is growing recognition that

a dominant focus on law enforcement strategies has not eradicated the supply

or demand for such substances," he said.

"A reorientation to a health-based framework does not suggest going soft on crime

but rather emphasises that responses to illicit drug use should focus on trafficking

and punishment of criminal behaviour arising from use, while people apprehended

solely for use and personal possession be directed to a range of treatment and

support options, where necessary."

Victorian MP Fiona Patten
Victorian MP Fiona Patten

The panel began looking at the state's drug laws and responses after the inquiry was proposed in the Upper House by Vote Reason MP Fiona ­Patten.

She welcomed the results.

"While I would have liked to see the report go further, I believe that this report and its recommendations accurately reflect community attitudes to drug policy today," Reason Party MP Fiona Patten said.

"We now understand that drug use is a health and social issue that law enforcement cannot solve. We need root and branch change."

President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Alex Wodak, is quoted in the report and was present in parliament when it was tabled.

"Our efforts to date have been a miserable failure. We've relied almost exclusively on efforts to cut the supply of drugs, probably well intentioned, but the market force is very powerful," Dr Wodak told AAP on Monday.

"The next step has to be redefining the drugs problem as a health and social issue." Dr Wodak is a director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital and helped establish a needle syringe program in 1986 and medically- supervised injecting centre in 1999.



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