BY ROSS FITZGERALD
24 Oct, 2011 04:00 AM
The government continues its policy that's demonstrably failed, Ross Fitzgerald writes.
One of the interesting side-effects of the Federal Parliament's obsession with immigration and taxation issues this year has been that serious discussion of social policy has been sadly neglected. Especially around drugs.
It's been about 40 years since marijuana, LSD and heroin made their way into Australian society and about 30 years for cocaine and ecstasy. Methamphetamine has been with us for a little more than 15 years and in the past couple of years we've started to see the advent of synthetic analogue drugs such as Kronic.
Three inescapable facts arise from the most cursory review of Australian drug policy since the late 1960s. The first is that governments continue to rely almost exclusively on the ''tough on drugs'' strategy. Secondly, drug use continues to escalate despite the ''tough on drugs'' strategy - or rather, because of it. Thirdly, while tobacco and alcohol are demonstrably the most dangerous drugs, governments still treat them far more leniently than others.
None of this makes any sense at all. If the road toll continued to rise over 40 years despite new speed limits, more traffic cops and speed cameras, would legislators continue with the strategy? Not likely. But when it comes to drugs, Australian governments cannot look any further than the United States for inspiration. They send people to jail for possessing a box of marijuana or as many ecstasy tablets as would fit in a packet of aspirin. But in effect, ''tough on drugs'' means ''devoid of any new ideas''.
In Victoria, new legislation is in the parliament to ban bongs.
''We'll show those young kids that we're serious about stopping marihuana smoking,'' Premier Ted Baillieu said.
Yet Baillieu then exempts the traditional Middle-Eastern ''hookah'' from the ban seemingly because he doesn't want to lose votes in Muslim communities. Apart from being a form of racial discrimination this legislation is going to force tens of thousands of young Caucasian and Chinese dope smokers to make their bong out of half an orange juice container and a piece of stolen garden hose. Inhaling hot plastic vapours will make more young adults sick than the dope will.