Events of significance
There is growing research and evidence that shows alternate approaches to drug issues can be more effective than strict prohibition. The shining examples are heroin prescription programs which continue to show good results and are being adopted by more countries – the most recent being passage in the German Bundesrat of laws permitting it, decriminalisation of possession of small quantities of illicit drugs by some countries, and significantly, removal of opposition to NSP funding and medical marijuana by the US federal government.
The number of significant people speaking out against the strict prohibition approach is increasing and there is an expectation that the latest report by TRANSFORM will contribute to encouraging the debate and giving courage to even more to speak out.
Internationally there are signs of change in thinking on the issue of illicit drugs. The United Nations drug agencies, once a strong defender of the law enforcement/zero tolerance/drug free world solution, has shown that it is prepared to change. It has moved from the futile statement of its undersecretary, Pino Arlacchi, who claimed the world could be drug free by 2008, to a position of recognition of the reality.
In Australia the continuing attention to alcohol has unfortunately continued to deprive our topic of oxygen. Despite the ALP’s indication of full support for harm minimisation there has been few indications that the tough (for government) issue of illicit drugs is to be tackled soon.
In the ACT we continue to monitor the new prison especially in relation to NSPs. The prison is now operational and some data is being gathered to evaluate the need for an NSP in the prison.
A report in the Canberra Times indicated that there were drugs in the prison at a very early stage of its occupation. The rate of HepC infection in the prison is about 65 percent. And the occupancy rate appears to be rising.
I continue to represent the ACT Coalition on Corrections on a prison community monitoring and evaluation group. Until recently only one meeting had been held in 2009. With the resignation of Mr Hargreaves as Corrections Minister and his replacement by Mr Corbell the meetings have now resumed.