I have to say, I rather like the look of the Drug Law Reform Party. At first glance, they look like a saner, better-thought-out version of HEMP – HEMP for the middle class, educated voter who may have dabbled in social work, or may just have had a joint or two at University and not regretted it. They are pretty much a one-issue party, but there are worse issues to have. Such as fishing.
The Drug Law Reform Party has two tickets, both of which start with the Australian Democrats, a sound move in my book. And I’ve just realised that the lead candidate for Victoria is Greg Chipp… a striking coincidence, don’t you think? Sure enough, it turns out that Greg, the party’s founder, is the son of Don Chipp, founder of the Democrats. According to the Herald Sun he is also a former heroin addict who apparently wants to show people in the throes of addiction that they can recover and make a contribution to society. Good on him, I say. Now, back to those tickets…
Moving on from the Democrats, both tickets then preference HEMP, the Sex Party, Animal Justice and Stable Population. And then the LDP, and why, why, why do so many otherwise sensible parties give preferences to that lot? I truly do not understand this. They eventually work their way down to the Greens, after which one ticket preferences Labor and the other Liberal. The foot of the ticket is reserved for the Socialist Equality Party, the group of Independents that contains the Nichollses and Webb, and finally the CEC.
The Drug Law Reform Party website has a little logo with the Southern Cross, two handcuffed hands, and the slogan ‘End Prohibition’. They have revolving banners that alternate between quotes from people saying that drugs caused their children’s deaths, but prohibition made it worse, or that prohibition was directly responsible, with statements like ‘regulate and tax cannabis equals $2 billion extra for education’ and ‘school building or court building? You decide!’. They also have Richard Branson quoted as saying ‘Drugs should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal problem. We shouldn’t be locking up our brothers and sisters, and we shouldn’t be locking up other people’s brothers and sisters.’
Their introduction begins by informing us that:
Drug Law Reform Australia exists to raise awareness of the ongoing harm being done to our children, families, democratic institutions and society in general, by the current harm maximising drug laws.
The party maintains that drug use can be dangerous and that problematic drug use is a major health concern, however criminalising drug use does more harm than good.
This is pretty much what they taught us when I was volunteering at Lifeline, too. The DLRP feels that drug prohibition criminalises ordinary Australians, and sees no intrinsic difference between drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis.
Their policy page begins by quoting statistics on cannabis and ecstasy use and arrests for drug use. They quote estimated spending on illicit drugs to be around $7 billion ‘with the enormous profits of this black market ending up in the pockets of organised crime’.
As a result of treating drug use as a criminal matter, rather than a social & health issue, the production, sale and use of illicit drugs is wholly unregulated, As a consequence:
- the enormous black market trade in illicit substances escapes taxation, such as GST on their sale and income tax on profits;
- thousands of Australians are convicted every year for simple possession offences who do not otherwise have any criminal involvement;
- the enforcement of drug prohibition needlessly takes up police time and resources, clogs up the courts and gaols while costing millions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere;
- the Australian public healthcare system foots many of the costs involved with treating problematic drug use and it’s devastating impact on the individual, their families and their communities;
- synthetic drugs are being produced with potentially toxic ingredients, rather than undergoing strict safety standards, as are applied to medicinal/pharmaceutical drugs; and
- Many drug addicts are forced into the criminal underworld at a great cost to their health, their families and to the community at large.
Honestly, I have nothing to add here. It’s all true, it’s all a problem, and we really do need to move to a harm minimisation model.
The DLRP proposes a Royal Commission into illicit drugs, a conscience vote on the question of drug law reform and a new regulatory model for drugs, deciminalising marijuana and ecstasy and providing improved support for people seeking help for addiction, with an emphasis on harm minimisation and reduction.
It has just occurred to me that some people may not know what harm minimisation is about in this context. Basically, it’s about saying, OK, so at the moment you are still taking drugs, how can we make sure you do that in a way that keeps you and the people around you safe. Harm minimisation accepts that drug use will continue to be part of society and probably won’t be eradicated, but tries to find ways both to reduce the need for drugs and to help people stay alive and healthy long enough to find a way out of whatever place they are in that makes drug use necessary to them. Obviously, decriminalising drug use is an important part of harm minimalisation, because most people do better when they are not having to either turn to crime to feed their habit or when they are not afraid of arrest if they do try to seek help.
In case it isn’t obvious, I’m all for this approach.
The DLRP’s final policy is on responsible contribution to policy debate in the senate:
Drug Law Reform Australia intends to remain a single-issue party, but is also committed to making a responsible contribution to policy debate and negotiations on other issues.
In line with our general commitment to conscience voting, any of our elected parliamentarians will be allowed a conscience vote on all issues that they are required to consider other than drug law reform.
However, one important principle that we will adhere to as a party committed to responsible government will be that we will not be involved in any attempt to remove a democratically elected government by blocking supply.
Again, I rather like this. It’s a very sensible, ethical position for a small party to take, and I’d like to see more small parties putting up similar statements.
Well, that was refreshing. I really could vote for these people, which makes two parties today that I actively like, rather than feel I could hold my nose and vote for. My strong suspicion is that this group will get nowhere this time around, but hopefully they will manage to raise enough awareness of the issues to make a difference in policy regardless.