New report on drug law reform: an evidenced based approach

Breaking news in drug law reform:  The Parliament of Victoria, Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee has released the Inquiry into Drug Law Reform Report.

After significant community consultation and expert advice, the report’s findings and recommendations propose that future reform be evidenced based and multidisciplinary.  Concepts that are at the heart of therapeutic jurisprudence…

The very first recommendation provides that:

The Victorian Government’s approach to drug policy be based on effective and humane responses that prioritise health and safety outcomes, be in accordance with the United Nations’ drug control conventions, and informed by the following principles:

  • promotion of safe communities – reduce drug‑related crime and increase public safety
  • evidence‑based – empirical and scientific evidence to underpin change
  • supportive and objective approach to people who use drugs and of drug addiction
  • cost‑effective – ensure money spent on drug policy is working to reduce harms
  • responsive – flexible and open to change, new ideas and innovation.

The report then recommends the adoption of a new drug strategy framework that recognises and properly funds each of four pillars:

  • Prevention
  • Law enforcement
  • Treatment
  • Harm reduction

In keeping of a committed to evidence based decision making and the need for a coordinated whole of government approach the third recommendation involves the establishment of a new governance structure including a:

  • Ministerial Council on Drugs Policy – comprising relevant Victorian Ministers responsible for the portfolios of health, mental health, police, education, early childhood education, road safety, corrections, multicultural affairs, and families and children; and
  • Advisory Council on Drugs Policy – comprising experts to advise the Victorian Government on drug‑related issues and research in Victoria.

And importantly the report recommends the expansion of approaches that have already been shown to work:

And recommendation to explore new approaches in Victoria that have shown promise elsewhere including HOPE Probation and secure therapeutic interventions for young people.

In terms of law reform the report recommends that:

“Victorian Government, while maintaining all current drug offences in law, treat the offences of personal use and possession for all illicit substances as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. This approach will ensure appropriate pathways are in place for the referral of people to health and treatment services in a timely manner where required. Mechanisms to achieve this should include:

  • exploring alternative models for the treatment of these offences, such as the Portuguese model of reform
  • removing the discretion involved with current Victoria Police drug diversion processes by codifying them Inquiry into drug law reform reviewing all threshold amounts for drug quantities in order to appropriately distinguish between drug traffickers and people who possess illicit substances for personal use only
  • conducting education and awareness programs to communicate with the public about the need to treat drug use as a health issue.”

View the full report and handy summary report here.

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