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Regulated drug availability in NSW

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Published under News, Proposals

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January 15, 2015

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Leading legal figures have put forward a radical proposal to curb the influence of black-market drug operations in Sydney and abroad.

The plan, devised by the New South Wales Bar Association's criminal law committee, is designed to provide a regulated system where drugs are legally available.

It is important to acknowledge that the committee consists of highly-respected legal figures that have prosecuted and defended criminal matters. It stands to reason that their opinion is based on years of handling drug-related matters in New South Wales courts.

The shock suggestion comes in the wake of increasing media attention surrounding the use of illegal substances in Sydney, following the death of Georgina Bartter at the Harbourlife music festival.

The committee says that current laws in the area are failing, and encourage further risks taken by users who purchase these substances from ‘black market’ suppliers. Further, the committee highlighted their growing concern at further crime, such as prostitution and armed robbery, being committed in order to supplement a drug habit.

The Bar Association has scheduled a conference at the end of May to discuss drug law reform. The aim of the conference is to encourage the community to discuss drug law reform, instead of dismissing the proposal outright. The NSW State Government has also been under pressure to develop further strategies to address the problem, including setting up a summit involving stakeholders.

With many states in the United States of America now providing a regulated system of legal availability for cannabis, Australian governments are now considering proposals to adopt a similar legislative position. Indeed, the NSW government is in the process of funding three trials for the medical use of cannabis.

The committee argues that the law has been “largely ineffective” at preventing the use and availability of illicit drugs, and something must be done to arrest the impact of the internet drug trade and illegal use of pharmaceutical drugs.

It is obvious that the legal system plays an important role in reflecting the community’s attitude towards illicit drugs. The current prohibitionist model does not seem to have had the desired effect in terms of deterring drug suppliers and drug users from engaging in illegal behaviour.

Therefore, an attempt to provide an alternative approach is something that should be considered. Some research needs to be undertaken by the NSW government and other regulatory bodies to discuss the best system of regulation.

The NSW Bar Association’s criminal law committee have suggested introducing licencing controls on the production and supply of drugs, along with price regulation and comprehensive services for treating drug addiction. They also stressed banning private trafficking, supplying to children and advertising of the substances as key components of their proposal.

The idea to provide a highly-regulated system of legal availability for illicit drugs has some merit, however at this stage it is merely a proposal. More research must be done by the NSW government and stakeholders before this idea becomes a viable option for curbing illicit drug use.

About the Author

Will is a determined advocate with an enthusiasm for criminal law. Since graduating with degrees in Law and Media and Communications, he has practiced exclusively in the areas of traffic and criminal law.

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