Asking 'What are the likely costs and benefits of a change in Australia's current policy on illicit drugs?', this is the report of a high level roundtable held at the University of Sydney on 31 January 2012.
The group also included two young student leaders, a former senior prosecutor, a former head of the Australian Federal Police, representatives of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform and a leading businessman. The Australian group agreed with the Global Commission that the international and Australian prohibition of the use of certain “illicit” drugs has failed comprehensively.
By making the supply and use of certain drugs criminal acts, governments everywhere have driven their production and consumption underground and have fostered the development of a criminal industry that is corrupting civil society and governments and killing our children. By defining the personal use and possession of certain psychoactive drugs as criminal acts, governments have also avoided any responsibility to regulate and control the quality of substances that are in widespread use.
Some of these illicit drugs have demonstrable health benefits. Many are highly addictive and harmful when used repeatedly. In that respect they are comparable to alcohol and nicotine, which are legal in Australia and, as a result, are under society’s control for quality, distribution, marketing and taxation. Australia has made great progress in recent decades reducing the harm from tobacco – a drug which kills half the people who use it.