Judge’s call: make drugs legal

Judge’s call: make drugs legal

A former ACT Supreme Court judge has called for the legalisation and regulation of drugs in Australia.

Ken Crispin QC makes the call in his new book The Quest For Justice.

“It was an evolution over a long period of time,” Crispin told Sydney Star Observer. “I began thinking that the present approach of prohibition was the right one, but I gradually came to see through being constantly confronted by court cases that it wasn’t working.

“I began to feel the appropriate response was to concentrate on dealers and to try to keep as many users out of prison as we possibly could.

“I came to realise that the present approach was simply failing. As much as we would all like to see the flood of drugs halted, it isn’t being halted, and increasingly I was hearing senior police officers talking candidly about the fact that we were not stopping the flood of drugs into Australia.

“Every now and again we’d catch somebody who would be trumpeted as a big fish, but was usually really somebody way down the hierarchy. Every now and again we’d intercept a big haul of drugs and we’d think that was a great achievement but in the overall scheme of things it was a tiny percentage of the drugs reaching Australia.

“And increasingly I became aware of the fact that you just can’t keep them out. We have 30,000 kilometres of coastline in this country — you can’t station police officers every 100 metres in the hope of catching them coming ashore.”


[poll id=”30″]

Crispin now believes the law and order response to drugs has magnified the global drug problem.

“Illegality also tends to keep people away from seeking rehabilitation. But in Portugal when they decriminalised the use of drugs, the first consequence was to increase the number of people in rehabilitation from something like 6000 a year to 15,000 a year.

“When they interviewed those people, they explained quite openly that they’d stayed away before for fear of prosecution and conviction.”

Crispin said regulating and taxing drugs would also generate resources badly needed for rehabilitating drug users.

“In NSW it costs over $75,000 a year to keep somebody in prison. But we’re very reluctant to spend money on drug minimisation programs or rehabilitation programs.”

Crispin said if we failed to change our approach to drugs we would not only see a more dangerous Australia but a more dangerous world.

“The problem has now spread to the point where criminal gangs have linked up with terrorists, and terrorism is increasingly being funded by drugs,” he said.

“Every year, the commission charged by the Taliban on drugs grown in Afghanistan is a $100 million and that goes straight into funding terrorist activities and buying weapons. That’s a frightening situation and it’s not only the Taliban that’s doing that.”

info: The Quest For Justice will be launched at Gleebooks on June 24.

You May Also Like

33 responses to “Judge’s call: make drugs legal”

  1. The whole world has gone mad by drugs – it stuffes up your brain!!!!!!

    However making drugs legal is only half the battle, people DIE from overdoses remember. We need to EDUCATE the WHOLE PUBLIC on drugs. The war on drugs has FAILED which is correct and I agree!!!!!!

  2. Well said. But why or why do the judges and former police chiefs only say this when they have retired? As so state sanctioned crystal meth: only worse thing i can think of is backyard crustal meth, and all the crime gang thuggery and police corruption that seems to go with it. Any maybe if speed, coke and heroin had been legally controlled via regulation, then no-one would have developed a market for crystal meth. What it comes down to really, in my humble, is respecting people’s autonomy to put what they want into their own bodies, so long as they are not harming others. bring on regulated supply (sounds better than legalisation, which implies open slather)

  3. This article has attracted 25 blogs.

    Immediately below this article is another about legisaltion on same-sex adoption rights.

    It’s attracted 4 blogs.’nuf said.

  4. Thanks Dave, I think you’re right also.
    And I forgot to add- none of the current mainstream political parties (save perhaps the Greens) would have the balls to decriminalise drugs.
    (As for corrupt police and their role, it was actually a surprise that Victorian Premier Caine announced stronger anti-corruption measures for Police there. No doubt drug links will crop up- Underbelly 1 part 2?. We need something similar- Surry Hills and Redfern commands would be a good start).
    And as for all the political rhetoric and b.s. about the ‘war on drugs’- the U.S. military and its allies also in the war on drugs, and if they were genuine about it, and who are firmly established in Afghanistan, would be agent orange-ing the major heroin producing poppy fields of Afghanistan (which apparently indirectly finance ‘terrorists), rather than bombing the crap out of its civilians.
    All side issues? I’m highlighting how irrational and politicised the whole drug debate is…

  5. interesting & thought provoking comments by all, especially Charlie (2nd comment). Bouquets to SSO for allowing this rather tbitter & twisted, grammatically challenged pea-brain a voice to vent his frustrated spleen.

  6. Jason, there is a distinction between legalisation and decriminalisation. If heroin or other illegal drugs were decriminalised that just means you wouldn’t be arrested for taking the drug. Legalisation would mean open commercial and government endorsement ie: they would be sold for profit in venues and taxed. Governments would then rely on drug taking as a revenue source and the drugs could be advertised like milk or bread are now – obviously not a good thing.

    I agree that alcohol has wrought havoc in society. That’s why I prefer not to see currently illegal drugs get the same legitimacy. And I believe any drug addict is not immoral or a criminal – he or she has a health problem.

  7. Jason- I understand where you are coming from on this and I really appreciate your honesty . Where countries have decriminalisation it works well. That is the test. We have failed at present, all countries that make it criminal have failed. How do we measure this? By the cost to the community of the current system, against the cost the community in countries that decriminalise drugs. Presently we have no controls on the drugs that people take. I think we should look at models where it has worked and be open to this option.

    John- I think you are very right! Who are the real criminals in drug use and what are the vested interest. I think two guys on a night out popping some pills hurting know one should not be treated like criminals.

    Ben- I think we should look at the system we have that has failed us, and look to other countries that have better systems. I just think the present way things are done making good people into criminals is just stupid. I am sure we can come up with a better approach.

  8. The elephant in the room of decriminalising drugs is that it would take corrupt police out of the equation. One of the implemented recommendations of the Woods Royal Commission was to decriminalise the sex industry. One result- to remove the role police had in running it.
    Recreational/ softer drugs provide police with easy arrests of users in nightclubs and dance parties, etc. Dealers of hard drugs (Heroin, Ice, etc) and their rackets are STILL left alone by cops (surprised?). As concluded in the book ‘Dirty Business’ by ex detective & whistleblower McNamara- where there is illegal activity, police will be ved where there is a profit to me made (sic)…

  9. I’d be prepared to consider decriminalisation of some drugs under strict conditions. The most important of these would be the loss of the Medicare subsidy in the event of health problems relating to drug use. In other words, you can use drugs, but no Medicare if something goes wrong. I don’t want my taxes underwriting the lifestyle choices of some people through the health-care system. You want to use drugs? Fine. Then you can be accountable for any negative consequences out of your own pocket.

  10. David – Alcohol was invented about 10,000 years ago and if I could go back in time to stop the invention I would, Im guessing back about 10,000 years ago they did not realise the affects alcohol would have on society, just like if we legalised drug use just imagine what could happen in society – and as I said in my previous post you only need to look at alcohol to know the decriminalisation of drugs would not be a good thing. Unfortuanally its abit late to ban alcohol now. And for the record I do drink alcohol regulary and I have taken recreational drugs before – I don’t mean to be a hypocrite, I am just concerned at how drugs being legalised would affect society as a whole.

  11. Dave, no country has legalised all drugs.

    The theory of government controlled drugs grew out of a much more limited range of drugs and focussed on heroin and marijuana.

    But does anyone think government sanctioned crystal-meth is a good idea?

  12. I think decriminalisation is the a better option than legalisation. Tobacco and alcohol are legal and taxed so the government has an interest in keeping people taking those drugs.

    Decriminalisation of ecstasy would at least mean cops wouldn’t harass people for possession. But the drug still wouldn’t be available at Liquorland.

  13. I would like to add personally I do not like illegal drugs. I will not take them if they are legal. I know it is stupid, like I said I take a good glass of red that is terrible for my body and liver. I have my own drug phobia I guess. But I do not want people getting messed up from backyard laboratories. I just accept that they are a part of life. You can get illegal drugs easily in many places including our Jails. I just do not like the misery illegal badly made drugs cause the community, and the taxes we all get slugged with for this.

    The Ambulances, the Hospitals, the violence, the crime, it all adds up. I am a realist. I know the cost to the community of illegal drugs is huge. We administer morphine to the sick; we know many community leaders have puffed marijuana. I have some friends who take illegal drugs and never have problems. They have a great old time. All I am saying is why not get rid of the huge cost to the community of illegal drugs, and create an environment of harm minimization. We have seen countries that adopted this approach had a massive drop in crime and health services. You can either except the high cost the community with the current situation that has people taking illegal drugs anyway, or you can legalize the drugs and have a harm minimization approach.

  14. Drugs do not discriminate, we do.

    We lost the battle the moment we decided to discriminate against some drugs. Yes I love a good red, but that is worse for me the legalised ecstasy.

    I would much rather have safe drugs made properly with warnings, and taxes from sales used to fund treatment programs for people who go overboard. We presently accept a system of poorly funded treatment programs that are mainly run by Christian Charities. Of course we all want to flock to those! The current situation does not work. It is broken. There are many vested in interest in keeping the current failed situation.

    Other societies that legalised drugs did not fall apart. They blossomed. Crime dropped massively. Some people will always go overboard on drugs, alcohol, smokes, you name it. In countries that legalised drugs the treatment programs are much more sophisticated and funded properly.

    We have to accept drugs, all drugs, are a part of our lives.

  15. Jason (“I have to only look at alcohol and its affect on society to know that recreational drugs should not be legal”)

    I hope you realise that you can’t have it both ways. If the effects of alcohol are evidence that drugs other than alcohol should remain illegal, they must also be evidence that alcohol should also become illegal. Do you propose to make it a crime for adults to drink alcohol? That is, do you believe that alcohol use is in itself an act of evil that deserves punishment? If yes, please say so. If no, then there is no reson to assume that the use of any other drug constitutes behaviour for which people deserve to be punished – at least not without evidence showing why that drug should be treated differently from alcohol.

    This judge’s point is not that people should use drugs, or that we should make it easier for people to use drugs; it is that what we are currently doing, while aiming to reduce drug-related problems, is not merely ineffective but actively making things worse. He is far from alone in his assessment, and surely you must agree that public policy should be evaluated not according to its intentions but its by its outcomes.

  16. Andrew- we cant even keep drugs out of jails how on Earth do you make them harder to get on? Lock more people up where there’s nothing to do but do drugs?

  17. We should be making drugs easier to get off and harder to get on. This ex-judge is politicised and like many other judges doesn’t realise the harm he causes.
    Thankfully, he’s retired. Let him go.

  18. Yep, just what the gay and lesbian community needs, more drugs, more freely available…

  19. Go Rosalba loved your piece ! that was great and well said !!! Not much more to add to yours as I think it says it all !!!!

  20. I have to only look at alcohol and its affect on society to know that recreational drugs should not be legal.

  21. If drugs are legalised, we will still see the same problems we currently see with cigarettes and alcohol. Those who are from disadvantage situations – lower socio-economic groups as well as minority groups (ie. us) – will be the ones who use the substances the most to their detriment. We already smoke at much higher rates than the general commmunity. We can talk about not wanting “big brother” looking over our shoulders all the time, but what chance does an adult 18 year old who has low confidence, doubts about their sexuality, lack of family support and no real skills to generate income going to have against addictive legalised ectascy/heroin/ice which would wipe out their capacity to be able to take care of themselves for days on end? Is the fact that the government would be able to tax the substance any consolation?

  22. I agree, that they should be leagilsed then the money from taxation could be used for all sorts of good, (allthough im just going on Ben Eltons High Society)

  23. Memorandum prepared by dr. Susan Blackmore for the Home Affairs Committee. 27 September 2001

    1. I have a dream. In my dream all recreational drugs are sold, properly packaged, in accurate doses, for a reasonable price, in high street shops. Anyone over a certain age can buy them, together with all they need to take them safely, and with accurate health warnings based on fair and unbiassed research. There are no dealers on the streets. My children are not pestered by pushers, in danger of being sold poison by their own friends, or tempted to mix dangerous, dirty drugs in unknown quantities. Their school drugs education evenings are full of facts and helpful advice, instead of lies, ignorance and scare stories. Our house is not regularly broken into by kids trying to get their next fix by stealing our video again.

    2. In my dream world people use drugs more than they abuse them. They use them for pleasure and fun; for art and inspiration; for insight and therapy. They teach their children how to use them well and how to avoid trouble. There are sensible laws and tests to prevent drugged driving and unfitness at work. Those who do end up abusing drugs find help and treatment freely available, funded by the ample taxes raised from legal sales.

    3. In my fantasy future no dangerous armed gangs threaten minor dealers and drag them into ever-deeper trouble. No twelve year old girls end up selling sex for a pittance to get their illegal drugs – or, worse still, to get them for their pimp. There is no multi-million pound illegal drug business, and hence no easy way for terrorists to fund their crimes of destruction. There are no international drug cartels wielding vast power and controlling billions of pounds of black market finance while the governments of the free world stand helplessly by.

    4. All over the world farmers work in adequate conditions to supply good clean drugs for legal and controlled supply. They are paid a proper wage for the work they do and no one (neither law enforcement agencies nor criminals) threatens them with death or torture for their part in the illegal business — because the business is all legal. People look back on our current ‘war against drugs’ with distaste and contempt. They see prohibition as the ultimate cause of endless human misery and suffering, and cannot understand how we could have tolerated it for so long. For the sake of myself, my children, the whole of my country and the people of the third world, I hope it will not be too long in coming.

    5. I am a scientist and university lecturer, doing research in psychology and neuroscience. I know that human beings have always taken drugs — indeed we evolved along with many naturally occurring psychoactive substances. I know that many drugs have positive effects as well as negative, although it is hard to do the necessary research to learn more while prohibition is in force. I know that people will always want drugs, and that fear rarely stops them finding the drugs they want.

    6. In my opinion decriminalisation is not the answer, but it may be the best step we can practically take towards the only truly effective drugs policy, which is full legalisation with proper taxation and control. I am sure you know better than I all the facts and figures that lie behind the points I have made here. My purpose in writing to the committee is to do something, however small, rather than stand by while our society is strangled by drug prohibition.

  24. I like the fact this guys has obviously thought about the issue beyond the usual knee-jerk reaction stuff our governments seem to be prone to.
    Lots of things are bad for us – ciggarettes and alcohol for example – yet they are freely available …
    I mean seriously, we are adults and we are quite capable of making informed decisions about our own futures … we don’t need any more Big Brother government bullshit – NSW is already a police state …

  25. The most sensible thing I have heard about drugs in years … shame it will never happen ..

  26. Hmmmm – if the govt could figure out a way to stop people producing their own drugs and then tax the buggery out of govt-produced product, I reckon they’d go for this …
    And let’s face it, the only real difference between something like Prozac and ecstasy is the ability of pharmaceutical companies and governments to regulate their distribution and make money from them ..