Monday, April 2, 2012

Time for national debate on evil drug trade

Eddie McGuire | Sunday Herald Sun | April 01, 2012 


I HATE drugs. I hate their guts. I hate the human misery that the illicit drug industry thrives on.

How could you not be devastated by the situation in which Ben Cousins and his family find themselves?

How do two beautiful girls I went to primary school with have their lives brutally ended being bashed to death while working the streets of St Kilda to feed a habit?

But what to do?

Well, clearly something different. It is time for Australia to look at so many of our social and economic needs and plan a course not built on tradition and religion and moral mumbo jumbo, but on reality and innovation. Time for some politicians to boldly lead.

It's time for Australia to look seriously at decriminalising drugs.

The war on drugs is over. We lost. If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result, then surely we are all mad to think anything is going to get better in the future.

It's only getting worse and those profiting out of the sale and manufacturing of drugs, organised crime cartels, are only getting bigger, badder and richer.
We read criminals are moving offshore in their manufacturing of drugs, to Pakistan and India, where the danger of being busted is considerably less than here.

Naturally, the associated human misery that goes with this business, prostitution and the human slave trade, is booming.

Currently the guess is that the illegal drug market in Australia is anywhere between $7 billion and $12 billion a year. We spend a further $4 billion-$5 billion a year on the "war on drugs".

According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund, Australia spends about 56 per cent of that money (more than $2 billion) on law enforcement, and just 22 per cent on prevention.

Ask any senior police officer, as I did this week, and they say that while that $2 billion may see some crims locked up, that doesn't make any impact on the supply chain.

Once one crime king gets rolled the vacuum is quickly filled by the next would-be Carl Williams or Tony Mokbel. And why not?

It's time for Australia to look seriously at decriminalising drugs

Why would any kid go down the old path of studying hard and graduating from university with a debt and a starting wage of $60,000 a year, when you can have the flash car, the hot girlfriend, and the gangster glamour lifestyle as seen on TV by being a drug dealer?

The two biggest financial costs of our losing war on drugs are policing and imprisonment.

Both, in real terms, are useless.

From a purely financial point of view - taking into account current users, a reduction in price of drugs, the saving in policing and imprisonment and a "sin tax" rate similar to the tobacco industry - back-of-envelope projections would see the Government pocket $5 billion a year.

Remember, all this is going on anyway.

So we have around $5 billion to use on rehabilitation, advertising and teaching -- which we have seen have remarkable success in lowering the use of tobacco, and changing the social standing of drink-driving and speeding on our roads.

Once decriminalised we can start to work on the reality of the problem, not pretend it's not happening.

Every week people are putting chemicals into their bodies with no idea of what they have been made from.

That ecstasy pills are often cut with "rat killer", so that tiny shards of glass cut your insides and cause the drug properties to have a greater effect, shows the ingenuity and horror of the business.

At least with a regulated drug industry people will know what they are getting.

And let's stop kidding ourselves, Australians are among the biggest users of drugs in the world.

We, as usual, pay the highest prices and as a result are becoming one of the world's best markets for international drug cartels.

Yes, we are cashed up, coked up, increasingly motivated by the "glamour" and are an ever-growing market.

Cocaine use in Australia is reportedly at its highest level.

Amphetamines, including speed, ecstasy and crystal meth, are believed to have 100,000 users.

Australia has the third-highest rate of drug use in the world and five times the global average.

The most recent national household survey on drugs (2010) reported 7 per cent of people over the age of 14, yes 14, have used amphetamines.

It was only in 1971 that US president Richard Nixon declared a "war on drugs". It is reported that in that time $1 trillion has been spent, only to see the strength of drugs increase, the price decrease and the availability and drug problem explode.

Even worse, instead of a regulated industry we have handed a monopoly business worth an estimated $400 billion to the worst and most dangerous people in the world.

Thanks Dick. And we thought Watergate and Vietnam were Nixon's lasting legacies.

Retired chief of Seattle police Norm Stamper is a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a US organisation of 13,000 current and former police officers, prison warders, prosecutors and judges.

"Every once in a while someone in government has claimed progress," he said during a visit to Australia, "but they've been wrong. The immutable law of supply and demand will continue to work its magic forever.

"Purity and prices will fluctuate, people's behaviour will fluctuate, but there has never been any point in the drug war we've come close to winning. It is unwinnable, and it's immoral."

Maybe the time has come to take a new approach, one that looks at drug abuse as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

And here are some happy thoughts to finish on.

Reports recently suggest that the Mexican drug cartels see dear old Aussie as a fertile market.

In Mexico one person each half-hour, yes 48 per day, is executed in drug-related violence.

Since the President launched a crackdown on the drug cartels 47,515 people have died in the past five years. Many victims are police and civic leaders who have been tortured and beheaded.

The killers are protecting a business worth $13 billion. Our new partners.

I don't even know if I agree with this column.

But I sure as hell don't agree with what's happening in our schools and streets, nightclubs, footy clubs and backyards now and I sure as hell don't like the way it is trending.

What I do want is a serious debate to see what our world would look like if we changed things up.

I'm sick of people being shocked and sanctimonious when someone like Ben Cousins' life explodes and we hope it will magically change.

That is insanity.

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