The Battle of Brisbane: Australia and the Yanks at War

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Jun 24, 2011 No Comments ›› admin
How wonderfully refreshing it was to see retired ACT Supreme Court Judge Ken Crispin taking the case for drug reform into the public arena via the ABC’s 7.30 Report recently.
His arguments were not new. It has been clear for many years that the so called War on Drugs has not only been lost, it has been counter-productive. It has actually caused untold thousands around the world to become hooked on drugs when otherwise they would have spent their entire lives without the slightest interest in them.
The reason is that prohibition encourages the development of a pyramid selling system. As Judge Crispin put it, the addict gets sick of stealing to buy his drugs so becomes a dealer urging others into the habit to pay for his own. And the fact that it’s illegal only increases the temptation to young people passing through that stage in life where rebellion against authority is an attraction in its own right.
The result has been that the drug trade has become a worldwide phenomenon; heroin and cocaine are a fraction of the price they were 40 years ago when the ‘war’ began; entire states such as Mexico and Afghanistan have been utterly corrupted; drug lords and terrorist groups have found common cause; hundreds of thousands of police officials throughout the world have joined the enemy (for a price); and we’ve had to build lots of new jails – at an outrageous cost – to house all the POWs.
Yet in the face of such blindingly obvious facts no politician has been prepared to stand up for change. According to Judge Crispin, they fear the ‘law and order brigade’ and I’m sure that’s true. But for how much longer will this motley crew of right wing politicians and religious authoritarians be able to retain their control over the broader and more rational community?
Alas, at this stage there seems to be no end in sight. However, in today’s world things change very quickly and Australia has often been at the forefront – for example in ending the death penalty and in providing free needle exchange. In this case, what’s needed is once again a movement of people of good sense and goodwill to come together under a banner to change community perceptions.
The simple truth is that drug use is not a crime; it is a health problem. The solution is to decriminalise drugs and remove its rebellious cache. Instead of more jails we should be investing in state of the art rehab centres run by medical (as opposed to moralising) personnel.
We really can lead the way.
Judge Crispin has made a powerful case for action in his memoir The Quest for Justice. He has seen the issue from both sides and he has earned widespread community respect.
The real question now is whether he is prepared to lead a movement for change. Should he do so, I have no doubt that many Canberrans – including your columnist – would back him to the hilt.

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