Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform congratulates and welcomes the second report from
Australia21 entitled “Alternatives to prohibition – Illicit drugs: How we can stop killing and
criminalising young Australians”.
“Australia21 is one of the few organisations that has had the courage to speak publicly on the
grave consequences that is visited on young people and their families because of our prohibition
drug laws,” said Brian McConnell, President of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform.
“Prohibition has been an experiment that has failed. Even though the United Nations recognised
this in 1988, it and the rest of the world persisted, thinking that if they tried even harder it might
just work. ”
In its 1988 convention on drugs the UN, among other things, said that it was “Deeply concerned
also by the steadily increasing inroads into various social groups made by illicit traffic in
narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and particularly by the fact that children are used in
many parts of the world as an illicit drug consumers market and for purposes of illicit production,
distribution and trade in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which entails a danger of
And yet it continued with the same failed policies with no evaluation and it even believed that it
could achieve a drug free world by 2008.
“Australia21 has examined the prohibition policy and has identified some of the possible options
for consideration. In short Australia21 has thrown the gauntlet down and challenged Australian
governments to discuss the alternatives,” said McConnell.
“It is telling that Australia21 has focused on the fact that the drug laws are killing our young
people as this report is released just one day after the 20th anniversary of the overdose death of
my oldest son. If the use of drugs had not been driven underground by the prohibition laws and if
it had been treated just as a health problem, we would not have been in the dark about his drug use
and we might have been able to save his life.”
The report examines the measures being taken in respect of drugs in a number of countries. It
looks favourably on the Swiss prescription heroin scheme, the Dutch cannabis model and the
Portuguese decriminalisation approach. The Swiss scheme has clearly been effective and it was
just such a scheme that was proposed in 1997 in Australia, and approved by all health and justice
ministers, but because of pressure by the USA, was vetoed by John Howard. Many young lives
have been lost because of that decision.
The Portuguese decriminalised all drugs for personal use in 2001 with mostly positive results .
Lisa Prior, journalist, writer and medical student, has said in the report “one of the things I like
about the Portuguese system is that I would feel more confident of dobbing drug addicted kids in
to the police, confident that the outcome would help rather than [the alternative] jail.”
“I, also would be more confident,” said McConnell. “But it would be for the reason that drug use
would not be hidden and driven underground, but would be more open, where young people
would be more likely to discuss their problems with their parents and seek help early.”
Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform urges all governments to seriously consider this report
from the independent organisation Australia21.
“I personally urge parents who have been affected in the same way that my family has to speak
out, to overcome the shame and stigma heaped on them by the current laws, and take this
opportunity to save the lives of our young people,” said McConnell.