Australian Illicit Drug Policy

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DATE OF SUBMISSION: 23, October 2012

Table of Contents

Abbreviated Terms4
Executive Summary5
Australia’s Illicit Drug Policy: Past, Present, & Future7 A Closer Look at Recommendations and Approaches11
Appendix A15
Appendix B18
Works Cited21


ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ACSAustralian Customs Service
ADCAAlcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia
AFPAustralian Federal Police
AIDRAustralian Illicit Drug Report
AIHWAustralian Institute of Health and Welfare
ANCDAustralian National Council on Drugs
BCRBenefit-cost ratio
COAGCouncil of Australian Governments
DUCODrug Use Careers of Offenders
DUMADrug Use Monitoring in Australia
IGCDIntergovernmental Committee on Drugs
MCDSMinisterial Council on Drug Strategy
MSICMedically supervised injecting centre
NDRINational Drug Research Institute
NDSNational Drug Strategy
NDSHSNational Drug Strategy Household Survey
NIDCNational Illicit Drugs Campaign

Illicit drug policy has not been a priority on the political agenda, but it is a policy that affects 6,902,527 Australians directly and has incurred a cost of billions of dollars to Australian society. The first paper in this report analyses the presence of illicit drugs in society, the costs of the drugs to society, and past and current policies. The second paper presents our recommendations and approaches to create an Illicit drug policy that is proactive and effective in minimising the harms of illicit drug use to the user and to society as a whole. Australia’s illicit drug policy is a newer policy; the first policy was created in 1985 due to international pressures. The founding principle of the National Campaign against drug abuse was to “minimise the harmful effects of drugs on Australian society.” This is still the slogan for the current illicit drug policy, The National Drug Strategy, which operates on the three pillars of demand reduction, supply reduction, and harm minimisation. However, the “balanced” approach has shifted over time to the majority of funds allocated to law enforcement.

Despite the $13 billion dollars (Collins and Lapsley 2002) that the government has spent of prosecuting drug offences, the general use of illicit drugs has increased which indicates the current policy is failing. The prohibition of drugs has fuelled the black market creating more underground crime thus causing further harm to society. The presence of an underground illicit drug economy results in changed financial flows within society and a redistribution of wealth between groups. Moreover, result of the current strategy emphasizing supply reduction has left prisons overcrowded with low level offenders accompanied with a high recidivism rate. In economic terms this translates to an additional burden on the community. However, the current policy is succeeding in harm minimisation with programs such as Kings Cross Needle exchange thriving and disease rates from intravenous drugs declining. The current policy has also earned praise for the coordination between health and law enforcement sectors.

Our recommendation encompasses:
Increase transparency of governance, develop consistent evidence base, and install a public face for NDS. Operate on three pillars but allocate more funds towards prevention and an emphasis placed on harm minimisation. Expand partnership between health and law enforcement sectors to include the education sector. Look to foreign countries for innovative strategies and compare their results to current policy.

Policy instruments employed in recommendation include:
Policy through exhortation: Public Information Campaign...
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