Attitudes to drug use have shifted significantly in recent years. Various types of drug law reforms are now being openly discussed in Australia. More and more people are beginning to seeing drug use as a social and health matter rather than a criminal problem. This is a welcome development.
Under the pressure of public opinion governments are slowly being forced to reconsider their approach to illicit drugs. Australia’s first pill testing trial was held at the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra. Unsurprisingly it was a success.
Two samples of drugs tested at the festival were found to have been extremely harmful. Pill testing in this case probably saved several lives. In addition to reducing the chances of harm, the information from pill testers provided to paramedics assisted in their treatment of intoxicated patients.
We need to build upon this trial and push for pill testing to be available at all music festivals and major events where recreational drugs are commonly consumed. It would be useful if a public service was also available for pills to be tested at local hospitals.
The other front where drug law reform is being discussed is around cannabis use. Medicinal cannabis was federally legalised in 2016 but it’s still illegal for a doctor to prescribe it in the Northern Territory and South Australia. This needs to be rectified urgently.
An estimated 7 million Australians have tried cannabis recreationally. At the moment millions of people are risking a criminal conviction that could impact on their ability to travel or get a job. There is a need to legalise the drug to prevent ordinary people from being criminalised for the sake of a prohibition that has only ever made things worse.
The production and sale of all drugs should be under the democratic control of the state. That is the best way to monitor the quality and purity of the products and to ensure they are distributed in a controlled way. The government could use the revenue raised to fund education programs about the effects of drugs and their safe use.
By Kai Perry