The Greens Are Pushing To Overhaul Australia’s Drug Policy

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale wants Australia to take a page out of Portugal’s book and begin treating drug use as a health issue, not a criminal one. Di Natale is calling for bipartisan support to overhaul our policies and is currently on a self-funded excursion in the European country, intent on meeting policy makers and program developers.

Portugal is a golden case study with respect to drug policy. Since 2001, users have been eradicated from the criminal justice system and the funds saved from prosecution and detainment have been funnelled into drug treatment prevention and rehabilitation. The result is a revolutionary one, and a strong foundation for the arguments against the traditional and ineffective ‘war on drugs’.

Since introducing the policy, Portugal has seen a “huge decline in all the things associated with harmful drug use.” In addition to this, HIV cases and overdoses have reduced, as well as a noted reduction in drug related crime.

Explaining the changes, Di Natale said, “Individuals [in Australia] who get into trouble with their drug use wouldn’t be subject to criminal penalties. Instead they would front a health panel which gets them into treatment and helps them with other things like housing and employment support.”

Di Natale, who is co-convenor of the Australian Parliamentary Group on Drug Law Reform, is spot on with his recommendations. Murray Sharman Stone, who is also a co-convenor, pointed out that Australia don’t have the facilities to properly rehabilitate from drug addiction, a problem that would be overcome should we choose to adopt Portugal’s policies.

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