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Australia21 warmly welcomes today’s 50 recommendations from Victoria’s Inquiry Into Drug Law Reform, calling for greater balance between traditional law enforcement on one hand and health‑based responses that will have a broader positive effect on the health and safety of communities on the other.

The report comprehensively explores the key areas of prevention, law enforcement, treatment and harm reduction, and acknowledges the need for a more effective drug response framework, one that prioritises health and community safety.

The first recommendation is for drug policy to be informed by the following principles:

  • promotion of safe communities — reducing drug-related crime and increasing public safety

  • evidence-based — empirical and scientific evidence underpins change

  • supportive and objective approach to people who use drugs and have drug addiction

  • cost-effective — ensuring money spent on drug policy is working to reduce harms

  • responsive — flexible and open to change, new ideas and innovation.

The report advises: A reorientation to a health-based framework does not suggest going soft on crime but rather emphasises that responses to illicit drug use should focus on trafficking and punishment of criminal behaviour arising from use, while people apprehended solely for use and personal possession be directed to a range of treatment and support options, where necessary. As part of this, the Committee acknowledged that substantial funding is necessary to ensure the availability of these treatment and support services to address substance use issues and reduce reoffending. The Committee believes that investment in these services will also enhance the effectiveness of early intervention efforts, and in particular prevent young and/or recreational users from using in more harmful ways.

Australia21 congratulates the Committee on its recommendation that responses to drug use are co-ordinated across portfolios including health, police, education, early childhood education, road safety, corrections, multicultural affairs, and families and children. This is in line with calls for drug law reform by health and social service providers and policy leaders, who recently held a summit in Victoria’s Parliament House warning that current laws create and/or worsen a wide range of harms across Australia, due to the complex interactions between poverty, social disadvantage, unemployment, homelessness, family violence, child protection interventions, mental illness, suicide and crime. The summit participants have formed an alliance to urge drug use to be treated primarily as a health and social issue and for criminal sanctions for personal use and possession to be removed.

Australia21 also welcomes the recommendation for Victoria to advocate drug law reform and a more evidence-based effective approach at a national level.

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