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Alternatives to prohibition: Illicit drugs: How we can stop killing and criminalising young Australians

Australia’s illicit drug markets continue to thrive. Young people are being encouraged to experiment because huge profits are made from drug markets controlled by powerful criminal networks. Australia’s reported rates of cannabis and ecstasy (MDMA) use are among the highest in the world. Every year, new drug types appear in Australia. But the criminal justice system is unable to stamp out psychoactive drug use. People accused of drug related crimes fill our courts and those convicted fill our prisons.

The collateral damage from efforts to suppress the drug trade continues to disrupt civil society and destroy young lives. About 400 Australians die each year through heroin overdose alone. By international standards our rates of drug-related deaths are extremely high.

The July 2012 Roundtable included a group of 22 high level experts and young people, who examined changes in policy in four European countries and considered future options for Australia. These discussions identified a range of ways in which Australian policy could be reset. Some are modest and incremental reforms, while others are more ambitious and will require wide community consideration.

Douglas, R, Wodak, A & McDonald, D 2012, Alternatives to prohibition. Illicit drugs: How we can stop killing and criminalising young Australians, Australia21, Canberra.