The use of meth should be decriminalised and party pills tested so revellers can get high without dying, the Australian Greens have said, with a Queensland senator claiming the move would “keep our kids safe”.
Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale and Queensland Senator Larissa Waters will tell a national drug summit next month that drug addicts should be able to use without fear of being charged. They also want law enforcement resources diverted to rehab services.
Senator Di Natale is also calling for testing of party pills such as ecstasy so youngsters can pop them “safely”.
Senator Di Natale outlined the radical proposals during a visit to Queensland’s drug capital the Gold Coast yesterday, with Senator Waters.
He described the plan as “rational and sensible”, while Senator Waters said the plan would “keep our kids and our friends and everyone in the community safer”.
But the plan has been slammed by anti-drugs campaigners, who say it sends a message that “drugs are OK”.
It comes as Australia grapples with the methamphetamine epidemic, which former prime minister Tony Abbott last year described as Australia’s worst drug scourge.
The National Ice Taskforce found Australians were among the world’s biggest users of crystal methylamphetamine, with the number of addicts doubling to more than 200,000 in the past eight years.
Ice has been blamed for a surge in violent assaults, including on hospital staff and emergency service workers, and police and lawyers say the powerful and highly addictive drug is behind a rising number of crimes.
Senator Di Natale visited Queensland as part of a national tour to meet with drug experts ahead of a federal parliamentary drug summit on March 2.
He said arresting drug users was not working and believes decriminalisation would help combat the drug scourge.
Senator Di Natale said criminal penalties were stopping drug addicts from seeking treatment and taxpayer funds were being spent on policing rather than rehabilitation.
“If we could say to every ice user in the country ‘come forward, you’re not going to be charged, but you’ll get instant access to a (rehabilitation) bed’ ... that’s the question we need to be asking as a society,’’ he said. “What we are doing at the moment isn’t working. It’s a policy approach that’s just failing us.’’
Senator Di Natale said he favoured the approach taken by Portugal, which decriminalised drug use in 2001. Dealers are prosecuted, but addicts caught with small amounts of drugs are sent to a “Dissuasion Commission” – made up of health and legal experts – who can hand out rehabilitation referrals, small fines or cautions.
Drug use and drug-induced deaths in Portugal have reportedly reduced since the policy was introduced.
Senator Di Natale said the Greens also supported calls to test ecstasy pills for toxins so users could get high, but “don’t die”.
But Drug Free Australia executive director Jo Baxter said decriminalising drugs, especially ice, “sends completely the wrong message”.
“It sends a message that drugs are OK,’’ she said.
“Drugs are illegal for a reason – because they’re dangerous. When you send an unsafe message like the Greens are proposing, you put young people’s lives on the line.’’
Healthy Options Australia executive director Dr Dennis Young said Australia had a big enough problem with legal “drugs” – alcohol and tobacco – without decriminalising illicit ones.