Events of significance
The year 2005 has been a mixed year. Internationally there have been some positive signs of change. In Europe heroin on prescription continues to be a standard treatment in Switzerland and The Netherlands and is being trialed or considered by a number of other countries including Canada. Medically supervised injecting facilities have been well accepted in those countries also. The benefits have been well documented.
Nationally it seems that drug law reform is taking a backward step. The ACT was the first to introduce changes to drug laws through the model criminal code. It had the effect of eliminating many of the benefits of the SCON system for cannabis and had the effect of widening the net that will now capture more users – not the Mr Bigs. That same Model Criminal Code is now being rolled out in all states and has been introduced in federal legislation. It is noted also that here in Australia, despite it being all governments’ policy, harm minimisation is under pressure with abstinence first and foremost (and to the detriment of individuals and families) being proposed as an alternative.
In the ACT the government is, through its health department, implementing its drug stategy. Progress may seem slow on some things but it is progress nevertheless. Of particular interest at the close of this year is the proposal to implement a needle and syringe exchange program in the new prison which is due to open in 2 years time. It is yet to be seen if the government has the courage to carry out that proposal.