Pubdate: Wed, 29 Dec 2010
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2010 The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Alex Wodak


Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former president of Brazil, and the
former presidents of Mexico (Ernesto Zedillo) and Colombia (Cesar
Gaviria) are right to conclude it is time to consider alternatives to
criminalising drugs ("Treat drug users not as criminals, but as
patients who need care", December 27).

President Richard Nixon declared a war against drugs 39 years ago. Now
a greater variety of drugs is available. The global price of drugs
such as heroin and cocaine has fallen 80 per cent in the past 25
years. In annual surveys 80 to 90 per cent of Australian drug users
report that heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis are "easy" or
"very easy" to obtain. Surveys of US school students report year after
year that cannabis is easier to obtain than beer.

The war against drugs has worked for criminals, a few corrupt police
and people employed in law enforcement and the criminal justice
systems. Both sides of politics have competed to show who is tougher
on drugs. Criminalising drugs has been an expensive way of making a
difficult problem worse.

But senior politicians, judges and police are now starting to say in
public what they have been saying behind closed doors for years. It's
time for a fresh approach.

Alex Wodak

President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Darlinghurst 
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