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Sep 11, 2012

Australian Marijuana reform, state competes with Mafia in clusterf***

While he media has hyped up a report on alternatives to drug prohibition by the Australia 21 group, the recommendations do not appear to any realistic form of deregulation or legalization of soft drugs. While likening their proposals to current treatment of tobacco or alcohol, it seems designed more to replace organized crime with government control of production, distribution and exchange in the industry, plus a register of users:

A REPORT by a group of prominent Australians that recommends Australia rethink its criminalisation of illicit drugs has been backed by the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association. The report recommended that cannabis and ecstasy be decriminalised for people aged 16 and older, who are willing to be recorded on a national confidential user's register. Users would be able to purchase drugs from an approved supplier, likely a chemist.

The report, prepared by the not-for-profit think tank Australia21, said prohibition had failed, leaving the manufacture and supply of illicit drugs in the hands of ''criminal elements'' and without proper safeguards and quality control. …

… The report proposes that cannabis could be controlled with taxation, with growers and sellers subject to ''hard-to-get but easy-to-lose licences'' for cultivation, and wholesale and retail supply. Cannabis packets would be required to be plain and have warning labels similar to cigarette packets, and people buying cannabis would be forced to show age identification. …
Proper legalization would marginalize the criminal element, empty the jails of nonviolent drug offenders, reduce the violence in the industry, and provide a new revenue source via taxation. It would also reduce the temptation of users to commit crimes in order to get the money needed to support the habit by lowering the price owing to the absence of the risk of criminal sanctions that exist now.

There is reason to assume that growers and sellers would be willing to accept some form of registration in exchange for legality, it is doubtful that users would be willing to register themselves in a way that gets them treated as patients or drug addicts for what might well be occasional use. Effectively, the report involves so much arse covering and nanny stating as to make the whole thing a waste of time.

For occasional recreational users, there will be little option but to go to the black market for supplies in order to avoid registration which, while supposedly confidential will eventually be spread to a wider circle of ‘interested parties.’ In a number of industries such as mining, random drug tests are the order of the day and it is not unlikely that in the future, in conjunction to standard checks, companies may wish to include a check on the applicants drug register status along with the standard police checks.

Any loosening of the current unworkable stupidity of prohibition would be welcome. Unfortunately by attempting too hard to be seen as responsible, the framers of the report are virtually guaranteeing that the underground market will continue alongside any official one that might exist in the future.

It is a likelihood that in efforts to determine which product is legal or otherwise, registered legal users will be submitted to such draconian requirements that the illegal market will be the one of choice.


  1. Interesting post Jim, but I disagree with some of your points.

    I think the registration aspect which frustrates you is a necessary step - one of the major reasons this thinktank was brought together was finding out how to curb addiction, and this system they have presented seems to me to be the most obvious way to achieve this outcome. It is the system Uruguay will employ providing their legalisation bill passes Congress. And yes, an addict may simply get more weed through a friend who is also on the register, but as you said, this solution is better than the backwards system we have right now.

    While I share your passion on the issue I also think you're being a touch cynical when you suggest the confidential users register will be made available to private bodies - there is no evidence to suggest this will occur.

    Well, that's my two cents, what do you think?

  2. When Andrew Peacock was Opposition Leader the government of the day used his confidential medical records in an attack on him.

    I see your point in so far as it is reasonable that those who wish to obtain treatment or are moved into a rehab program to be on a register. I do not share the view though that only by registering should people be allowed legal access. Most users would wish for their usage to be private and entry on a register would be a threat to that.

    Some would be willing to register in order to obtain easy access, but a great many of those who worry about breach of privacy would be inclined to stick with the illegal market. Many casual users who don't have a big outlay would be in this category.

    Industries such as mining assume a duty of care for a drug free workplace. It would be a reasonable argument for such industries that they should have access to a potential employee's drug register status as a matter of being a responsible employer.

    I see your point, but I think it is counterproductive.