Archive for the ‘Drugs and Alcohol’ Category

Media Release: 3rd April, 2012: New national and rational debate on drug laws? Count the Democrats in!

02/04/2012

New national and rational debate on drug laws?

Count the Democrats in!

The Australian Democrats are excited to be endorsing the release of a high-level report from Australia 21 which calls for the reopening of a national debate about the regulation and control of drug use.

National President, Darren Churchill, says it will take a mature response from mainstream media outlets to allow the science to be heard.

“This debate must not be a platform for scare-mongering, nor should it be fuelled by five second media grabs.

“We owe it to the 400 young Australians who die every year from drug-related causes to debate this issue on scientific merits, not on fear and misinformation,” said Mr Churchill.

The call for this debate, coming from former politicians, such as Michael Wooldridge and newly-appointed Senator Bob Carr, and the former head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Palmer, follows on from last year’s Global Commission on Drug Policy which pulled no punches in declaring that the “War on Drugs” has failed.

“There is a huge irony in so many Australian states introducing legislation to curtail bikies, while at the same time deliberately pushing the control of illicit drugs into their hands. If these drugs are as dangerous as some would have us believe then the control of their manufacture and distribution should be in the hands of governments.

“With such huge profits to be made from illicit drugs, their control by organised crime opens the door to police corruption.

“Like Australia 21, the Australian Democrats understand the fears that parents have about risks illicit drugs might pose to their children. But if we can have an open and honest debate, those fears will be put to rest.

“They need to know that the vast majority of drug harm in Australia comes from the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and some doctor-prescribed drugs.

“Most of our sitting politicians are frightened of taking on this issue for fear of a media campaign against them, so it is the retired law-makers and law-enforcers, the doctors and the scientists who will have to lead this campaign.

“It will take time, but eventually reason will win, and today’s announcement is a great start” said Mr Churchill.

DARREN CHURCHILL

National President

darren.churchill@democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

3rd April, 2012

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Media Release: 29th May, 2011 Flawed and Unscientific Drug-driving Law Should be Repealed, say Democrats.

29/05/2011
DARREN CHURCHILL
ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 29th May, 2011

Flawed and Unscientific Drug-driving Law Should be Repealed, say Democrats.

The Legislative Assembly should repeal its draconian Drug Driving legislation says ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill.

Amendments which were passed by the Assembly on 1st December 2010 and 13th May 2011, have been rolled out in indecent haste in a matter of days.

Laws continuing to allow a prescribed concentration of alcohol, 0.05 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) will be in complete contrast to the zero tolerance approach in relation to drugs.

“This law should be repealed and should not be re-introduced until there is a proven scientific method of measuring the relationship between different quantities and types of drugs and the level of impairment to driving associated with them for a legislated drug induced impairment equivalent to 0.05 BAC scientifically established.”

“The law makes a mockery of the rules of evidence by disregarding the level of a drug required for impairment. This is just a facade of trying to appear tough on drugs with no real intention of improving road safety or public safety. Police resources would be better utilised in improving the overall enforcement of traffic laws and other laws” Mr Churchill continued.

“The legislation still does not contain even so much as a statement of intent about ‘road safety’ despite Democrat calls for it last year. And it still doesn’t appear to have addressed the concerns raised by the Human Rights Commissioner, nor the disregard of the rules of evidence. Yet, now it’s the law! What protections are there for persons randomly tested to ensure the results of any specimens collected under the legislation will not be able to be used to establish any offence that is not related to road safety?”

“Traffic Operations Officer-in-Charge Sergeant Jeff Knight has claimed that police will conduct random roadside drug testing in similar ways to drink driving operations. However, how can this be the case when Attorney-General Simon Corbell has admitted that drivers can expect to be detained on the roadside for up to ten minutes?” questioned Mr Churchill.

“Drivers will be detained without even the suspicion of the commission of a crime? It makes every driver or driving instructor into a suspected criminal!” Mr Churchill declared.

“In my submission (on behalf of the ACT Democrats), to Territory and Municipal Services just over three years ago, I recommended a BAC equivalent of impairment for drugs be scientifically established, before implementing such legislation.

“Our legislators are clearly more concerned about increasing police powers than they are about human rights and road safety. The law is unfair, unjust unsatisfactory and completely unimpressive. It must be repealed!” Mr Churchill concluded.

CONTACT:

Darren Churchill

President, Australian Democrats (ACT Division)

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Speech: ‘Harm reduction is the guiding principle of Australian Democrats drug policies’

09/08/2010

“Candidates on Drugs Forum” – Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform – 9th August 2010

‘Harm reduction is the guiding principle of Australian Democrats drug policies’

Thank you.

I have a long history of supporting and advocating for drug law reform (as does my party).

As a bit of background, you might like to know what started my interest in drug law reform. Initially, it was school debates on legalisation of marijuana and heroin. I found the arguments fascinating.

Then as a university student in the 1980s, I joined the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The co-patrons of NORML were two of my heroes: Don Chipp (the first leader of the political party which I now represent) and Sir John Gorton (former Australia Party and Liberal Movement backed, independent Senate candidate for the ACT). If you haven’t picked up the connection there, I’m just pointing out that the progressive centre has always had a keen interest in drug law reform – a position which I now inherit as the current Australian Democrats candidate.

In the 1990s, I was a strong supporter of the proposed Heroin Trial and a safe-injecting room in the ACT. And this is a position, which my party has strongly advocated in ACT elections.

More recently, I have been quite outspoken about the idea that Random Roadside Drug Testing laws must be based on scientifically established driver impairment levels.

Reducing the level of damage inflicted by illicit drugs lies at the heart of the Australian Democrats drug policies.

The users of drugs are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters and our friends. They are not another species of human beings that deserve to be marginalised.

Drug abuse costs the community dearly. It touches not only the families who suffer from a loved one’s addiction, but all of us who pay the price for increased burglary to gain funds for drugs, and the cost of legal services and prison for those convicted.

The simplistic prohibitionist approach to illicit drug use has proved no more successful than prohibition of alcohol in the United States during the 1930s. Just as prohibition spawned a powerful criminal underworld, the ‘war on drugs’ is furnishing drug warlords with massive profits. Those profits are being used to corrupt both police and customs officials.

If these drugs are so dangerous, why do we leave the Mr Bigs in charge of them?

The Australian Democrats understand that zero tolerance does not work and only ends up costing the community money and lives, and keeps drug prices artificially higher, which provides greater incentive for more drug-related crime.

The criminalisation of drug abuse imposes a significant cost on the community and does very little to reduce drug use. It often means unnecessary exposure to the criminal justice system, and places drug users in a prison environment that may actually make their drug habit worse.

There is much evidence to suggest that burglary is most often drug related. In the ACT, the Democrats have called for increased research and support into alternative forms of punishment and rehabilitation for drug-related offences, such as a specialised drug court.

Prohibitionist and ‘tough on drugs’ approaches to illicit drugs are not working. Our lawmakers have repeatedly failed to base their decisions on the available scientific information about drugs. Drug and alcohol issues are more appropriately dealt with as health rather than criminal matters.

Nor is the ‘just say no’ approach to educating young people about the dangers of drugs effective. Where the message is heard at all it is often perceived as paternalist and hypocritical.

The Australian Democrats believe that effective education and realistic policies are the key to reducing all forms of drug use.

Many young people are impervious to the antidrug message when delivered by the ‘authorities’. We need much better information about what young people really think about drugs. That knowledge can then be used to develop more effective peer group education programs.

Until we strike the right balance, the war on drugs will continue to be a war upon ourselves. That balance falls between effective education and the judicious use of the criminal law.

This is to ensure that financial resources, and police and court time, are not wasted on the unnecessary prosecution and imprisonment of drug users and addicts; the focus instead should be on getting addicts the treatment they need. Police should concentrate their efforts on organised drug pushers and gangs.

We believe that drugs policy should always be based on independent scientific advice, which includes advisory bodies on the misuse of drugs being completely independent of government.

The vast majority of drug-related harm in Australia comes from the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. With alcohol proving to be one of the most dangerous drugs being regularly consumed in our society, lifestyle advertising of alcohol must be curtailed so as to allow information only about brand, variety, price and sale points.

The Australian Democrats support trials of cannabis, ecstasy and heroin for medical purposes.

There is good evidence to show that ecstasy might be useful in the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; and heroin is still used in some overseas hospital systems to alleviate pain.

I advocate decriminalisation of the possession and use of cannabis with a nationwide expiation system for personal use of marijuana.

Turning otherwise law-abiding people into criminals for the personal use of marijuana would be foolish and counterproductive. A supervised medical trial should also be conducted on the efficacy of cannabis as a pharmaceutical drug. Overseas research has suggested that the medicinal use of cannabis can be useful in alleviating pain of those suffering from cancer and other painful diseases.

Consideration should also be given to the idea that a way be found for a tax to be levied on the sale of cannabis.

Drug driving testing should extend to doctor-prescribed drugs, many of which are far more dangerous than recreational drugs; once a scientific means of determining a 0.05 BAC equivalent level of impairment can be established.

I’ll finish with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, which I think beautifully describes the criminal vs health approach to drugs:

“A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded … Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes.”

Media Release: 30th June 2010: Random Drug testing law is costly and flawed, say Democrats

30/06/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 30th June 2010:

Random Drug testing law is costly and flawed, say Democrats

“The Legislative Assembly has failed Canberrans by passing a costly and flawed Random Drug Testing law.” says ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill

The Oppositions’ Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill 2009 was rushed through the Legislative Assembly today with support from the Liberals and the Greens, despite the ACT Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs warning that the law would fail a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

“Dr Watchirs has repeated her concerns of two years ago that the legislation will breach the Human Rights Act. But the Assembly has gone ahead and passed this intrusive law anyway. “

“Not even so much as a statement of intent about “road safety” and simply ignoring the concerns of the Human Rights Commissioner. This clearly shows that the Liberals and the Greens are more concerned about increasing police powers than they are about human rights. And the Labor government is weak for not being able to negotiate a better outcome.” declared Mr Churchill

“Mr Stanhope was right to raise Dr Watchirs concerns. But it’s not enough. It is essential that all ACT legislation conform to our Human Rights Act 2004, which both the Labor government and the Australian Democrats have championed as being a good model for similar national legislation.”

“On top of this there is the added problem of stretching already insufficient police resources in order to implement the scheme. There will be no increases in police resources and training despite the time taken to test people and the cost involved, diverting police resources from solving real crime.”

“The law will make a mockery of the rules of evidence by disregarding the level of a drug required for impairment. This is just a facade of trying to appear tough on drugs with no real intention of improving road safety or public safety. Surely, it would be better to utilise police resources in improving the overall enforcement of traffic laws and other laws?” Mr Churchill continued.

“This law should be repealed and should not be re-introduced until there is a proven scientific method of measuring the relationship between different quantities and types of drugs and the level of impairment to driving associated with them for a legislated drug induced impairment equivalent to 0.05 Blood Alcohol Concentration scientifically established.”

“The law must also be written to conform with our excellent Human Rights Act 2004.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 30th June 2010: Proposed drug testing law raises human rights and effectiveness concerns, say Democrats

29/06/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 30th June 2010:

Proposed drug testing law raises human rights and effectiveness concerns, say Democrats

“The proposed Random Roadside Drug Testing legislation must be based on driver impairment levels and take account of the requirements of the Human Rights Act,” says ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill

The Oppositions’ Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill 2009 is expected to be debated by the ACT Assembly this week. The government has already referred the Bill to the Police Chief and the Human Rights Commissioner for comment.

“We await with anticipation the report of the Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Watchirs,’ Mr Churchill said. “In a speech in 2008, Dr Watchirs outlined the need for human rights to be at the centre of the discussion and raised concerns about Random Drug Testing being compatible with the Human Rights Act 2004, particularly in relation to ‘arbitrary detention/arrest of the individual, subjecting people to have medical treatment without free consent, an arbitrary interference with their privacy, arguably creating problems of an unfair trial; negatively impacting on children’s rights.’

“No wonder Mr Stanhope has referred the proposed legislation to Dr Watchirs again! Our Human Rights Act is landmark legislation and has been widely championed by both the government and the Australian Democrats as being a good model for similar national legislation.”

“If it does meet the human rights test, other things the ACT Democrats would expect to see in the legislation are:

· An “intent” clause to ensure that the Bill is for “road safety” and not for any other purpose. This would allow protection of persons randomly tested to ensure the results of any specimens collected under the legislation will not be able to be used to establish any offence that is not related to road safety;

· Is there balanced and reasonable science from other Australian jurisdictions that Random Drug Testing is effective in contributing to improved road safety? Perhaps we need a “sunset clause” after which time the effectiveness of the legislation in it’s intent can be evaluated and reviewed, and if not effective that it be discontinued;

· an impairment provision to determine what level of a drug in the body is proven to impair driving to the equivalent of a 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Something such as the Standardised Field Sobriety Test (SFST) currently used in some form in US, NZ and Europe. This could be replaced by other more scientific tests as the research becomes available and enable testing for impairment by licit as well as illicit drugs;

· the removal or modification of Clause 12A (2) which could allow a pedestrian, a passenger or anyone at all to be tested and prosecuted. It should be deleted from the bill or clarified as to whom it refers;

· The increases in police resources and training that would be needed to implement such a costly and questionable scheme would perhaps be better utilised by improving the overall enforcement of traffic laws.”

“I made a submission (on behalf of the ACT Democrats), to Territory and Municipal Services just over two years ago where I raised many of the above points. It seems that more than two years down the track, we are still unable to determine an effective scientific or human rights basis for this legislation.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473