Thursday, August 12, 2010

the results of keeping drugs illegal

gilbertgrace | The law did have an effect on me. However, a lot of people did dabble during the 60s and 70s - now we have a hepatitis-C epidemic, thanks to the fact that those who dabbled in heroin had to do it under cover, sharing injecting equipment. Our society now faces the fact that 250,000 people have hepatitis-C, 20% to 30% of whom will end up with cirrhosis and need liver transplants. So our keeping the drug illegal in the 70s, all based on good thinking, led to consequences we just had no idea about but are now having to deal with.

Keeping drugs illegal gives government something to focus on as they fight the war on drugs rather than the war on dismay, despair, isolation and fear which has driven the drug use in the first place. This approach gives work to Customs agents, Federal Police and others, resulting in great news stories, such as large quantities of drugs being shown in people's underwear or in condoms which they hold up and say, "I wonder where they inserted this?". People think that is wonderful and get a chuckle out of it, but these drugs kill people. The people who are bringing them into the country are making millions of dollars at the expense of young people's lives. Despite the war on drugs, we are now seeing more heroin back in Sydney than ten years ago, thanks to the war on drugs and the war on terrorism which has allowed Afghanistan to now start producing more heroin than ever before.

The Stateline program on 4 February said it all, I think, sadly and innocently in some ways. We saw the story of a man who had committed suicide on the front lawn of some young people in western Sydney because these young, unemployed, under-engaged drug using teenagers had just heckled him and heckled him to the point of his killing himself - an extraordinary tale. Cannabis and other drug use were blamed to a significant degree for this outcome, whilst the issues of poor parenting, lack of work or social support systems were addressed far less clearly. The current system completely failed that man. If the kids who caused him to take his life were charged with his death and sent into the penal system, is there much hope that they would be rehabilitated? My answer is "No, there is not a lot of hope that they would come out of it better people." Our system failed everybody in that story - yet it was presented as a very intense, thoughtful look at drugs in our society.

Our current system criminalises the drug use that makes life bearable for some; it hardens the minds and hearts of those who do end up in the penal system; it ignores the bleedingly obvious societal factors which lead to dysfunctional drug use in the first place; and it allows this system to run beneath the surface of the law, out of reach of the police for much of the time, making millions of dollars and ending hundreds of tragic lives."