Committee meeting, May 1997.
Recognising the failure of prohibition, the CCL maintains that there should be a comprehensive review to identify which laws impact adversely on public health and require amendment and should explore and seek to implement workable alternatives to current policies.
The CCL maintains that illicit drug use should be addressed as a health rather than a legal issue. It, therefore, advocates the transfer of powers relating to drug use from the criminal justice system to the health system.
It also supports the policy of harm minimisation rather than zero tolerance in treatment of the effects of illicit drugs. Regarding trade in illicit drugs, it and advocates a regulation of the drugs market.
It has therefore adopted the Redfern Legal Centre Model of Controlled Availability of illicit drugs which states: 'Harm reduction should be the standard against which we measure the success or failure of existing drug laws and proposals for change. We need to move towards greater regulation of the drugs market to enable us as a society to influence the size and operation of the drugs market. We must explore alternative strategies to control the size of the black market, including considering changes to the law regarding supply.
Regarding the powers of the police and penalties:
CCL advocates the removal of prison as a sentencing option for drug use or possession. It supports the view that enforcement practices should be better directed and varied, leaving ample legal power for the police to control offensive or anti-social behaviour. It also maintained that further consideration should also be given to the use of police discretion and formal police cautions for first offenders. On-the-spot fines were not recommended as they can discriminate against the disadvantaged.
CCL supports an integrated approach involving research, education and treatment of illicit drugs and further research such as:
the use of methadone, naltrexone, narcan and other drugs; the trial of the legal provision of heroin for the addicted; the trial of medically supervised injecting rooms with protection of workers and without police harassment of the clients of the facilities. It maintains that the use of cannabis for medical purposes should be allowed.
Policies that need to be addressed:
- the de-criminalisation of the use of all illicit drugs
- the offense of the use an illicit drug and the possession a small quantity for personal use should be abolished
- the offence of use without changing the law prohibiting possession as (drug use and possession are currently separate offences) should be abolished
- the offense of possession of drug equipment such as needles and syringes should be removed.
N.B In 1997, the CCL supported the legalisation of the use of cannabis use, subject to government controls.