26th November 2019

Now a fifteen-year-old has died of a suspected heroin overdose in the vicinity of the ‘Safe Injecting Room’.

And already a chorus of “drop the age to let kids in’, ‘let friends (read dealers) come in and help inject their friends (read clients)’, ‘let the pregnant woman in to inject’ – bring their kids to learn -, open up more safe injecting rooms it saves thousands of lives’.

The messages – drugs are safe – drugs are not bad – injecting rooms do not create a marketing mega-site for dealers – injecting rooms do not provide a hub for the drug class – you won’t die from drugs if you do it at our place.

And here is the million dollar question, that no apologist will ask let alone answer

  1. Where do the drug addicts get their money to feed their addiction and use these nice clean facilities?
  2. CRIME, yes, you and I pay for it, and that crime is not restricted to property crime but crime against the person.

A society that promotes an activity that supports crime – how dumb are we?

Add to this, a leading list of luminaries, including a former Police Commissioner turned academic, have capitulated recently and called for the decriminalisation of certain drugs.

Decriminalisation is no more than an admission that they do not know how to deal with the problem recycling decriminalisation every couple of years and thankfully ignored as regularly visit https://hoobastank.de/.

Our view differs from these defeatists and apologists for the illicit drug trade, believing that there are plenty of smart people in this country, and with a genuine commitment, we can find a solution. If not a solution, we can dramatically reduce the harm. The current strategies are a dismal failure, and the problem continues to grow unabated.

National legal drug usage, tobacco and alcohol, are in decline at about the same rate as illicit drugs are on the ascendancy (ABS), but the defeatists choose to ignore those successes and give up.

One of the key traps they have fallen for is the arguments of the illicit drug apologists focusing on the poor addicts portrayed as innocent victims of this whole affair. They are the players, we the public, who do not indulge in illicit drugs, and are the victims.

The significant difference between these poor drug addicts that need special considerations is that addicts of alcohol or tobacco are unlikely to commit a crime to feed their addiction or use their addiction to mitigate their unlawful behaviour and most importantly pressure our young people to indulge.

Despite some of the positives, the overall effect of the current strategies, safe injecting rooms, pill testing, free needle exchange and mitigation of penalties for criminal behaviour sends an unambiguous message to our vulnerable youth that drugs are not that bad. These current strategies grow the problem, not reduce it.

The free needles are popular, but the exchange bit doesn’t work too well and explains the hazardous spent syringes polluting our public spaces and waterways, in many suburbs, to plague proportions, and while we attack single-use shopping bags that are a terrible pollutant the single-use syringe appears not to be an issue. In today’s society, you get into more trouble not picking up your dog’s droppings than a Hep C infected drug addict leaving used syringes in parks, playgrounds and public places pokebud, a danger for inquisitive young children.

Make no mistake; this proposition is reinforced by the drug pushers who approach your children, remember their motivation is sales, so they will emphasise positive spin and use the attitude of those wanting to decriminalise drugs to their marketing advantage. No different to a car salesman emphasising the strengths of the car you may be considering. The car salesman is unlikely to let you know the car is a lemon.

There are a number of factors that are regularly ignored by the inadvertent apologists for the drug trade.

  • You cannot force a drug addict to rehabilitate.
  • Drug addicts are consummate and practised liars.
  • Street addicts are the drug pushers that need to feed their addiction and increase their sales, and your children provide the potential market.
  • Many drug addicts enjoy living on the edge in the drug scene.
  • Drug addicts are generally lazy, avoiding all typical responsibilities.
  • Any support beyond rehabilitation for a drug addict extends their addiction.
  • They are unlikely to seek genuine help until they hit rock bottom and too often not even then.
  • Lack of support is the best driver to encourage addicts to rehabilitation.
  • Prevention strategies to reduced illicit drug use are minimal, which is odd given the growth trends.

The most frightening aspect of decimalisation of illicit drugs is, what will be the unintended consequences.

The theft of motor cars did not diminish dramatically in line with the introduction of engine immobilisers to the Australian car fleet. When the crooks found they could not hotwire a car, the home invasion epidemic was spawned. The need to gain access to car keys outweighed the risks of the consequence of a home invasion.

The decriminalisation of drugs is guaranteed to spawn another possibly more egregious evolution of criminal practices that will befall the community. Whatever form that practice takes will not be good for us.

If the proponents of the decriminalisation approach believe the criminals of this country will sacrifice their lifestyle, power and money, then they are truly naive. Extortion and kidnapping may become an epidemic.

The only practical solution to this issue is to use tried and successful marketing strategies of supply and demand. Reduce the demand, and the supply will be more significantly impacted than any efforts to remove drug wholesalers from the market because as soon as you remove one, another takes the place because the demand is still there.

Reducing demand, which we could do if we are committed, will damage the business model of pyramid selling the drug trade relies on.

Essentially the necessary components to this strategy are:

  • Police to target street addicts/users.
  • Establish a short term facility for addicts secured under the Health Act to break their lifestyle and market share for short periods.
  • Invest in advertising the risks of drugs on social media and how to deal with a family addict on mainstream media.
  • Direct the Courts to require them to send addicts to a Health Department facility for short periods, on conviction for possession or use for the first offence seven or fourteen days then escalating on subsequent offences.
  • Possession of small quantities of any illicit drug qualifies.
  • Provide the power to escalate detention on the frequency of recidivism.
  • Drive the street trade underground away from our kids.

This process will not have an overnight impact, but as it builds, so will its effectiveness and impact.

It has to be better than what we are doing now, which really amounts to very little, but of course, decriminalisation is doing nothing, and that is the easiest option in dealing with this insidious problem destroying many of our communities.

Ivan W Ray

Police Veteran                                                                                                                         Chief Executive Officer                                                                                                  Community Advoacy Alliance Inc.                                                                                       caainc.org.au