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Looking Back: The Biggest Domestic Drug Policy Stories of the Past 20 Year

There are more options for treatment or diversion out of jail or prison, but people are still getting arrested. Sentencing reforms mean some people won’t do as much time as they did in the past, but people are still getting arrested. And the drug war industrial complex, with all its institutional inertia and self-interest, rolls on. […]

Drug expert says Sydney must lift its harm reduction game

As Melbourne prepares for its first trial of a Medically Supervising Injecting Centre (MSIC) next year, Sydney drug treatment expert Dr Alex Wodak AM is urging expanded harm-reduction facilities in this city to counter changes in the drug trade.

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Government shelves plans to drug test welfare recipients, citing lack of Senate support

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Michael Gannon, welcomed the change of plan. “This has been tried in other parts of the world. There’s not a scrap of evidence that it reduces drug use in welfare recipients,” Dr Gannon said. “There’s no evidence at all that its useful in helping people get back to work.” […]

The Government Will Ditch Their Shitty Plan To Drug-Test Welfare Recipients

The Turnbull Government‘s really quite bad plan to drug-test young people in low socio-economic areas receiving welfare assistance will be mercifully put on ice, after the embattled Government failed to secure crossbench support for the controversial measures. The plan was bashed from pillar to post by just about every opposing politician, and critically a throng of leading medical and social welfare organisations, under the sun. […]

What goes on inside a medically supervised injection facility?

A medically-supervised injecting centre is a physical space where it’s legal for people who inject drugs to come with pre-obtained substances and inject themselves. The key point is that rather than just being supplied with clean injecting equipment and then sent away to inject elsewhere, people are also provided with a safe space to inject. […]

What Exactly Happened With Aussie Fest Spilt Milk’s Failed Pill Testing Trial?

While it’s a debate that will surely continue for a long time from both sides of the fence, Dr Caldicott’s final point is probably a good summation of the youth vote on the issue, referring to the politicians he believes blocked the trial at this point. “This is a brilliant way of completely distancing yourself from an entire demographic of parents and young people, because it looks ridiculous and it looks foolish and it looks aged.” […]

Controversial drug trial for welfare recipients to be postponed

The trial was to have applied to new welfare recipients from January 1, 2018, but Social Services Minister Christian Porter on Wednesday indicated he was prepared to excise the trial from omnibus welfare legislation so other measures could be approved by Parliament before the end of the year. […]

UK: Durham Police to Stop Prosecuting Low Level Dealers

The controversial plan, coming into effect next month, implies the Durham police will stop prosecuting small dealers, who usually face a minimum of 18 months in prison. Instead they must agree to join a four-month Checkpoint programme that aims to tackle the underlying problems of drug use, such as financial or family problems. […]

Trudeau Plays Trump Foil Again With Critique of Duterte

Trudeau said after a closed-door meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte Tuesday in Manila that he raised concerns about extrajudicial killings and other alleged abuse associated with the Philippines’ drug war. The exchange came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump sidestepped the issue in his own talks with Duterte on the sidelines of a regional summit. […]

NZ PM – Drug-related killings ‘certainly require investigation’

Ms Ardern said she would urge Mr Duterte to carry out an enquiry into the high numbers of death. “There’ve been various attempts for there to be oversight into some of the executions that have occurred. Our view is that number of deaths certainly requires investigation and oversight, at the very least.” […]

Why ‘Just Say No’ To Drugs Will Never Work

As much as many of us would like to see it become a reality, there will never be a drug-free world. People who use illicit drugs do so for a multitude of complex reasons that appear immune to political interventions and ‘just say no’ slogans. Only by accepting drug use as a reality within our communities can we effectively tackle drug-related harms and ensure both individuals who use drugs, and society more broadly, remains safe and healthy. […]

Moving Away from the War on Drugs: An Interview with Dr Alex Wodak

The critics of harm reduction and drug law reform are old and shrinking in number and influence. In contrast, supporters of harm reduction and drug law reform are young, and growing in number and influence. But every battle is still tough. Ridiculous amounts of time and energy still have to be expended for modest gains. […]

The Mad Merry-Go-Round Of Starving Welfare Recipients Off Drugs

Trials of heroin-assisted treatment in countries like Switzerland have shown that “despite a difficult labour market situation, there was nearly a twofold increase in permanent employment whereas unemployment dropped to less than half.” If the Australian government is really concerned about reducing unemployment of drug dependent welfare recipients it will invest in treatments like these that stabilise lives. […]

Testing welfare recipients for drugs is wrong headed

That’s the thing, the government doesn’t really want to help the unemployed with this plan. That’s not its aim. Its aim is to win the support of those who believe the unemployed have it easy and are getting wasted on the public dime. This policy isn’t about help. It is simply cynical politics. […]

Drug consumption rooms can help reduce the harm caused by addiction

Not only do these spaces save lives, decrease the risk of users contracting HIV and other diseases and clear related paraphernalia from our streets and parks, but they also help people access support services, such a healthcare, housing and benefits. They can help people take the first step in the journey from harmful addiction to a healthier life – specifically because they provide safety from the hard hand of the law, which criminalises drug use. […]

Experts and public disagree over plan to drug-test welfare recipients – polls

HRA president, Gino Vumbaca, said the gulf between expert and public opinion showed the government and media were not properly communicating the complexities of the issue. “[Drug testing] is counter-productive, and that’s what you often find, when you talk to people who actually work in this area with knowledge of the issues,” he told Guardian Australia.  […]

About time: Victorian government’s safe injecting trial will save young lives

The Victorian government’s decision to trial a supervised, safe injecting space for heroin users in inner Melbourne will save lives by preventing overdoses and by putting many addicts on a pathway to recovery. It is a welcome, though lamentably belated, reversal of a policy that has contributed to dozens of needless deaths this year alone in Richmond, where the trial will take place. […]

Melbourne safe injecting room trial set to get the go-ahead

Victoria will trial a safe drug-injecting room in inner Melbourne in a major turnaround for Premier Daniel Andrews, after calls to set up the centre amid a growing heroin crisis in the state. Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said Cabinet approved the proposal after a review of private members bill and after considering advice from the police, the coroner and community stakeholders. […]

State pumps extra $53 million into rehab as Yarra drug deaths surge

Expectations are growing that a reversal of Labor’s rejection of a safe injecting room in Richmond might be announced any day, with senior ministers who are in favour of the idea growing in confidence. Government sources say emergency and health services have already recorded the number of lives lost to drugs in the council area so far in 2017 at 34 “and climbing”. […]

Decriminalising drugs ‘could be the answer’: former top cop

Former police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan says decriminalisation of small quantities of certain illicit substances could be the answer to WA’s drug problem. Mr O’Callaghan made the remarks during his first segment as a social commentator on Gareth Parker’s 6PR Morning Program, during which he also said the City of Perth needed a new substantive Lord Mayor and confirmed he had once considered a tilt at politics. […]

EU: Human rights worsened with Duterte’s drug war

While the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2016, published on Oct. 16, noted that human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and the climate of impunity were already present during previous administrations, “the killings in the ‘war on drugs’ as well as the possible reintroduction of the death penalty were the focus of the EU’s attention”. […]

Promoters pull plug on pill testing trial

“It’s a setback, it’s a delay,” Harm Minimisation Australia President Gino Vumbaca tells AJP. “Canberra has a unique situation where some major areas of land are owned by the Federal Government by the National Capital Authority, which is not an independent authority. “My understanding is that the promoter was put under enormous pressure, he hadn’t had the festival – which was a sell-out – finally approved by the NCA.” […]

Crying over Spilt Milk

This is a time where we should be crying over Spilt Milk, given it means that a festival that will be occurring in our town is less safe than it could have been and our young people are at greater risk than they needed to be. We need to be honest and recognise that this is a time where fear, ideology, and oppositional party politics has again won the day, and we have failed to keep our young people safer. […]

A Spilt Milk Pill Tester Explains How Things Went So Wrong

Dr David Caldicott is an emergency room doctor in Canberra who has been campaigning for pill testing and harm reduction in Australia more than a decade. Here he gives his account of how the much-lauded pill testing pilot at Canberra’s Spilt Milk music festival got cancelled. […]

Feds’ festival intervention bitter pill for ACT Government

Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs, and Mental Health, Shane Rattenbury has accused the Canberra Liberals of undermining the ACT’s democratic processes and endangering public health by using their Federal counterparts to force the cancellation of the pioneering pill-testing trial at next month’s Spilt Milk music festival in Commonwealth Park. […]

Pill Testing At Spilt Milk Festival Reportedly Won’t Be Happening

While the trial was heralded as a win for harm reduction among festival patrons, Gino Vumbaca, the president and co-founder of Harm Reduction Australia — the parent body behind STA-SAFE — confirmed to HuffPost Australia that the advisory body had only been made aware by the NCA of additional documentation requirements on Wednesday, and then 24 hours later were told it had missed the deadline […]

Prohibition doesn’t work… what does “working” mean

We know that proponents of prohibition have asserted that its overall objective is to reduce drug use. And we know that this is why it is ultimately ineffective, because drug use has shown no signs of a decrease in the 40-plus years since the war on drugs was declared, and this is evidenced in expanding drug markets […]

Govt MP urges treatment-first drugs policy

A federal government MP, known for his conservative views, wants a rethink on how the justice system treats illicit drug users. Liberal MP Craig Kelly says Portugal has had “remarkable results” since it changed from treating minor drug use as a criminal issue to a health issue in 2001. […]

Duterte’s ‘drug war’ is fueling the spread of disease

President Rodrigo Duterte’s “drug war” has left thousands dead at the hands of police, but it is also threatening lives in a different way. Front-line advocates in this city in the central Philippines say the violent anti-drug campaign is pushing users ever further underground, fueling the spread of disease by stopping efforts to get them clean needles.  […]

New calls to change approach to drug abuse

David Grant, the Penington Institute’s acting CEO says the survey’s findings further highlight Australia’s existing “war on drugs” approach to addiction isn’t working. “We need to treat drug use and addiction for what it is – a serious community health issue with widespread implications for our society,” he said. […]

Philippines drug war alarms 39 countries in UN

In a joint statement delivered by Iceland through representative Högni Kristjánsson on Thursday, the countries noted that the human rights situation in the Philippines continues to be of serious concern, particularly in the light of killings associated with the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. The states called on the Philippines “to cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations into these incidents, in keeping with the universal principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law.” […]

Police support injecting room in Melbourne

‘Heroin overdoses are predominantly a health issue that commonly cause death and leave our members and other emergency service workers frequently picking up the pieces when lives are tragically lost,’ union secretary Wayne Gatt said on Monday. The union said a trial for safe injecting rooms – like the one at Sydney’s Kings Cross – would not affect police operations. […]

Drug-testing welfare recipients an ‘absolute disgrace’, Australian of the Year says

McGorry is the latest prominent Australian to voice his concern about the measure, which will see 5,000 welfare recipients drug tested at three trial locations. He has warned the policy fails to understand the intersection between mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. The consequence will be to drive vulnerable Australians with a mental health issue away from the welfare system, and most likely into homelessness. […]

A medically supervised injection facility matters for Victoria – and for more inclusive mental health support

The many people who died from preventable heroin overdoses were members of a Melbourne community – and their lives mattered. We can choose to be the kind of community that supports each other when people are struggling and need help. Now we need to make sure that establishing a medically supervised injection centre in North Richmond remains a priority, and becomes an essential part of a more welcoming and inclusive Melbourne. […]

Drug testing welfare recipients is about money not love

The personal cost and harm of this policy is much more obvious than the love. We know that risky alcohol and drug use are closely linked to living in remote and disadvantaged areas. Being marginalised and disadvantaged leads to increased drug and alcohol use, not the other way around. Targeting already marginalised people in this blunt way will only increase disadvantage and social isolation. […]

Inquiry denies proposal for safe injection room in North Richmond

Harm Reduction Australia executive officer Greg Denham said a safe injecting room would not only save lives but would also improve the amenity of the area around North Richmond. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Cameron Loy said injecting drugs was a health issue. He said North Richmond Community Health Centre dealt with one fifth of drug overdoses in the state. […]

Staying in The Loop: the organisation testing drugs, one festival at a time

Critics of The Loop and other similar services often lobby the accusation that drug testing facilitates drug use. But the results speak for themselves – around 20 per cent of the people who choose to get their drugs tested turn the rest in, and many who do are in possession of the most dangerous samples. […]

Drug testing welfare recipients a ‘tick a box’ exercise that can never work

Already treatment services are full and clinicians are fully occupied. There is the idea that one might be able to purchase a treatment place for someone out of the schedules in this welfare reform bill. All that will mean is that someone else will miss out on a treatment place, someone who perhaps is motivated to seek treatment. […]

Drug testing welfare recipients will only result in more drug dealing

This is an attack on poor areas by the rich. It is lopsided. Oh, and speaking of rich people — did I mention that while ice is on the decrease, cocaine is on the up? Where, among other places? Canberra. You heard correctly. Canberrans use more cocaine than most Australians. So if we’re going to drug test people, let’s drug test everyone on the taxpayer purse. […]

Plan to drug test welfare recipients will ‘increase crime and drive social division’, say medical

Nearly 1000 doctors, nurses, addiction specialists and allied health professionals are pressuring the Senate crossbench to reject the Turnbull government’s plan to drug-test welfare recipients. The medical professionals – who have more than 20,000 years combined practical experience – have signed an open letter saying there is no evidence to suggest the policy will work and will not help people with drug addictions […]

Rally urges government to back safe injection rooms for Richmond

Hundreds of Richmond residents have called on the Andrews government to reconsider its opposition to safe injecting rooms following the deaths of 34 drug addicts in the laneways of North Richmond last year. But Premier Daniel Andrews again refused to budge on the issue, which could play a key role in the battle with the Greens for the seat of Richmond at next year’s election. […]

Why safe drug-consumption rooms make more sense than testing welfare recipients

Given the huge amount of taxpayers money spent on drug law enforcement – with few results – and the manifest benefits of such safe and effective facilities, it is high time that Australian governments show a capacity for nimbleness and innovation by opening a network of drug-consumption rooms where they are most needed. […]

Coalition warned drug dealing will rise if testing of welfare recipients goes ahead

The head of Australia’s largest youth drug and alcohol rehabilitation service has warned the government’s plan to test welfare recipients will force more people into drug dealing. “That’s why this is a stupid, stupid idea that is not based on evidence but is based on someone not looking at the literature and pretending they have the answers,” the chief executive of the Ted Noffs Foundation, Matt Noffs, told Guardian Australia. […]

How to help young people minimise drug harm

This is entirely about harm minimisation, not hypocrisy or wowserism. The Age has long argued the “war on drugs” has failed dismally and that regulation and education, rather than prohibition, would, as it has elsewhere, save lives, reduce drug use and cut crime. […]

Vic drug inquiry considers injecting rooms

Supervised injection rooms, legalising cannabis, and whether or not illicit drugs should be decriminalised will be up for discussion at a Victorian inquiry into drug law reform. Students for Sensible Drug Policy Australia have recommended the decriminalisation of drug use and possession. The group wants the state government to legalise recreational cannabis and say it should be regulated like alcohol, according to their written submission. […]

Human rights campaigners fear returning to the Philippines after Duterte’s threats

Amnesty International Campaign Manager Michael Hayworth said pressure needs to be put on the United Nations to mount an independent investigation into human rights abuses in the Philippines. “The Australia government along with other governments in the region can send a loud and clear message to President Duterte that this sort of behaviour, these killings are completely unacceptable” he said. […]

How to help people do drugs safely: let them know what they’re really taking

One in five of the people who had their drugs tested chose to voluntarily hand over more drugs for disposal because they weren’t comfortable taking them after the consultation. And it has provided Measham – who researches trends in recreational drug taking – valuable data about the changing way Brits are getting intoxicated to help them do it more safely. […]

Furore erupts over killing of teenager as Philippines drugs war escalates

The Philippines police came under pressure on Friday to explain the killing of a high-school student after the 17-year-old became one of at least 80 people shot dead this week in an escalation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs. Witnesses told the ABS-CBN channel that the teenager did not have a firearm and police officers at the scene handed him a gun, asked him to fire the weapon and run. […]

32 killed in Phil drug war’s bloodiest day

The intensity of the crackdown has alarmed the international community, and activists and human rights groups say police have been executing suspects and planting drugs and guns at crime scenes. “There were 32 killed in Bulacan in a massive raid, that’s good,” Duterte said in a speech. […]

HelpNotHarm: but what about rights?

Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, said he was “stunned” by the decision to “strip people with alcohol and drug problems of income support payments”. For many people who use drugs, or are aware of the reality outside of the dominant narrative, this policy proposal is hardly shocking. […]

Just say ‘know’ to drugs: can testing facilities make festivals safer?

A growing number of festivals are now openly discussing a new approach to drugs, based on information and harm reduction rather than criminal justice. This shift in attitudes is coming at a very welcome time. Recent developments in the European drug market have seen an unprecedented rise in the strength of ecstasy tablets, with a number of recent reports of adverse health effects, including emergency medical treatment and fatalities, attributed to MDMA toxicity. […]

NZ’s Ross Bell: Police are not telling us enough about this killer drug

The people taking these cheap, poisonous products are largely young, poor and marginalised, and they’re not being protected. Wealthy, middle-aged people take plenty of drugs too, it’s just that they can afford better ones. We can’t keep relying on “just say no” as a model, it’s irresponsible. Our job as a caring society is to seek to mitigate and reduce harms by developing emergency response systems, getting mature legislation in place and addressing the underlying causes of drug use. […]

Prescription opioid epidemic coming to Australia

Much of American policy is designed to stop the flow of illicit drugs, which Dr Wodak said was close to useless in countries such as the United States and Australia, which have large borders. To address the growing problem, Dr Wodak made six recommendations, including increasing the availability of medical cannabis in Australia. […]

Tasmania: Time for a new tack on drug fight

Tasmania needs to listen to the experts — retired judges, magistrates, police commissioners, health experts and ex-premiers — and reorient resources towards preventing addiction. We need to intervene early, educate, fund more drug treatment programs and court mandated diversions, and decriminalise the personal use of drugs. […]

The real story of how ice is killing Australians isn’t found in scary headlines

Speaking of crime, what impact has ice had on rates of violent crime? A big one, according to the media. However, the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reports a recent downward trend in crimes such as robbery — down by 63 per cent since 2000 — which wasn’t the case during the heroin crisis of the 1990s, arguably the last time we were this concerned about an illicit drug. […]

Tas drug legalisation backed by ex-judge

A report calling on the Tasmanian government to decriminalise illegal drugs and invest more money in treatment services has the backing of a former chief magistrate. Community Legal Centres Tasmania on Monday released a study advocating a health-based approach to tackle the state’s “failing” war on drugs. […]

More executions reported in Philippines: UN experts

Reports of summary executions, including of children, are multiplying in the Philippines, three United Nations experts said Monday, urging the government to investigate and curb “spiralling rights violations”. “The Government of the Philippines must urgently address growing reports of human rights violations, including murder, threats against indigenous peoples and the summary execution of children,” the panel of three experts said in a statement. […]

ABC needs to report news not promote for-profit rehabs

A rehabilitation centre should be a sanctuary. Given that this facility is a private, unregulated clinic, there is little the government can do to regulate its actions. However, journalists can be more critical in colluding with such services by considering what the motives are for a story when it is being pitched, and questioning whether using and fully identifying vulnerable people as case studies is ethical. […]

Heroin deaths on track to pass statewide road toll in three years

Alcohol and Drug Foundation national policy manager Geoff Munro says the heroin toll will continue to rise. “We are disappointed that Victoria cannot follow the example of New South Wales of a supervised injecting room where people can get the medical assistance they need in case of an overdose,” he said. […]

ACT Labor conference forces caucus to consider pill testing at Spilt Milk

The ACT Labor caucus will be forced to consider pill testing at Spilt Milk 2017 after a motion was unanimously passed at its conference on Saturday. Pressure has been mounting on the government to allow harm minimisation groups to help people test their illicit drugs for dangerous substances. […]

Feds approve Ottawa’s first supervised injection site

The federal government signed off on the health centre’s application Wednesday after receiving the request for an injection site last January. Once a follow-up inspection is done, clients will enter one of five injection stations on the first floor of the health centre’s facility and shoot his or her drugs under the supervision of health experts. […]

Why Jokowi’s war on drugs is doing more harm than good

Far from having a deterrent effect, the number of drug-related crimes in Indonesia increased in the months after the executions were carried out in January and April 2015. During the subsequent crackdown, researchers and advocates also documented an increase in the use of coercive measures, prison overcrowding, including raids by law enforcement, forced drug testing, and compulsory detention. […]

Philippine leader says drugs war ‘trivialised’ by human rights concerns

Duterte wasted little time in his annual state of the nation address to defend a crackdown that has killed thousands of Filipinos. He said that though he valued human life, he needed to tackle “beasts and vultures” that were preying on helpless people and stopping foreign investment from pouring in. […]