Why would anyone want to legalise something capable of causing so much harm to so many people? It is also hard to grasp a concept such as this because drugs have always had a stigmatised image in society.
They have been touted as the evil, the dirty and the dangerous. Users have unfortunately been viewed in a similar light. Our country has a long history of drug prohibition.
Australia began prohibition during the 1970’s, although steps towards its anti-drugs approach go back as far as 1912. In more recent times, the drug policy has become more publicised, with an increased focus on law enforcement and tougher penalties.
The current approach to drug use in Australia is based around the ‘war on drugs’ discourse. In 1997, John Howard introduced the National Illicit Drug Strategy, with the slogan ‘Tough on Drugs’ (his version of America’s ‘War on Drugs’).
It is difficult to change a school of thought that has its roots firmly planted in our society. Despite this, there is evidence to suggest that legalisation could be a beneficial – yet very controversial – step towards the management of drugs in Australia today.
However, it’s a step that would need to adhere to strict guidelines and careful monitoring if it were to work. If drugs were to be legalised in Australia, it should be for the possession of small amounts for personal use only.
Drugs should only be allowed to be sold from government registered places, with private dealing to remain illegal – drug dealers should not be able to benefit in any way. Underage drug taking should also remain illegal, in a similar vein to drinking, smoking and driving.
There are quite a few arguments for the legalisation of drugs in a controlled way. Firstly, it is hard to argue against the fact that the current approach to drug use is having little effect, therefore is there any harm in trying a new approach?
In many cases, it has been found that a hard line approach actually causes more problems, as can been seen in terms of the alcohol prohibition era in America where bootleg gangs became a large-scale issue. Legalisation could also lead to huge benefits for the police force and society in general.
If the government and police don’t need to spend time and money dealing with minor illegal drug activity, it leaves a lot more resources for issues of greater concern and importance.
Then there are the health benefits for users. There is the possibility of drugs becoming purer, more predictable and more reliable. There is also the hope that legalisation could bring more education and reduce stigma attached to drug use.
Radical ideas such as legalising drugs will always meet strong opposition and the drawbacks must be taken into account – because they are there.
However, some credit must be given to the fact that humans are autonomous beings capable of making their own decisions. As a large scale health concern in Australia, drug use is a very contentious issue.
Whether legalisation is the key to control remains unseen, but with current strategies failing perhaps it is time for a new approach.