Australia’s adults-only association has labeled WA Opposition leader, Mark McGowan’s call to ‘illegalise’ all synthetic cannabinoid substances, as the dumbest moment ever in the development of W.A. drug policy.
Eros Association CEO, Robbie Swan, said all synthetic cannabinomimetics (substances that mimic cannabis) had already been banned in WA in July 2011, following a request by the WA State Drugs and Poisons Unit to the Therapeutic Drugs Administration (TGA). Because the W.A. Misuse of Drugs Act is linked to TGA changes, all cannabinomimetics have been automatically banned in WA since.
“Mr McGowan’s comments reflect the fact that most politicians are not interested in stopping the flow of dangerous drugs into the community”, Mr Swan said. “As long as they appear to be ‘tough on drugs’ and can use the issue to get re elected they don’t even bother to read the literature or try to understand the complexity of the problem”.
Eros Social Tonics coordinator, Nick Wallis likened Mr McGowan’s approach to Richard Nixon’s approach to marijuana in the late 1960s. “Mr McGowan’s populist line actually increases the level of dangerous drugs in the community. There is not one shred of evidence anywhere to support his claim that tougher laws will mean less drugs. He should be lobbying to legalise recreational marijuana and that would stop the flow of synthetic substances quicker than anything else”.
Mr Wallis urged WA legislators to do their research before enacting any more laws. “At the moment this market is not run by criminals however if legislators enact new laws to prop up their failed prohibition model, they could pave the way for criminals to displace responsible retailers and expand the black market”, he said. “This government has an opportunity to stop the chemical arms race rather than continue to fuel it.”
Mr Swan said Mr McGowan’s call to drop the need for evidence in a court of law proving that a drug is psychoactive, would end up seeing household chemicals and basic foodstuffs being criminalised. Queensland laws that have gone down this path have banned avocados, saffron and even chocolate but have done nothing to stop the two recent deaths in Mackay, Qld.
Mr Swan said that over 30 separate pieces of legislation covering cannabinoid substances across Australia since 2010, had completely failed to stem the flow and that it was now time for WA to come up with a different regulatory model to slow the numbers of dangerous drugs in the community. “In 2013, the New Zealand government implemented a psychoactive substances regulatory regime that allowed close to 40 mild psychoactive products to be legally sold to adults”, he said. “At the end of that year, there were no deaths recorded from these products.”
Emergency Consultant and Senior Clinical Lecturer in Medicine at the Australian National University, David Caldicott, has joined other experts to call on governments to be ‘wittier and wiser’ in responding to the harm of drugs. Mr. Wallis wants more attention paid to pragmatic solutions, “The experts are being ignored and lives are being put on the line when all politicians want to do is talk tough on drugs”, he said. “That approach doesn’t save lives – it just makes criminals richer”.
In September 2014, former Presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland joined with Kofi Annan, Richard Branson and George Shultz under the united banner of the Global Commission on Drugs and recommended to “allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances.”
Mr Swan said it was unfortunate that Mr McGowan was not in the same league as these world experts.