The Eros Association has long supported and lobbied for regulation of psychoactive markets. In early 2015, Nick Wallis of the Eros Association attended the Australasian Drug and Alcohol Strategy Conference and presented a talk titled, “Responsible drug dealers.”

“The key factor in responsible drug dealing is a level of regulation. To regulate something is to take responsibility. To prohibit something is to remove oneself from any responsibility. Consumers want legal products. They don’t want to break the law and they also don’t want to be seriously harmed by something that is legal,” said Mr. Wallis to a room packed with police officers from across Australia.

The recent death of Dean Shields, allegedly from an unregulated mystery synthetic product would not have been prevented by prohibition. People still die from illegal, prohibited drugs that Australian police deparments spend millions and millions on stopping. Senior police officers are constantly in the media, warning the public of potential dangers of drug use.

This strategy isn’t preventing deaths and there are many who argue that these strategies increase harms. In 2012, the Eros Association provided a submission to the Queensland Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee which was seeking comment on a new law that would widen the net of prohibition. The submission noted that the Australia21 report on alternatives to prohibition, “Recommends that the future for Australian drug policy should aim to minimise deaths, disease, crime and corruption arising from drug use and drug policy. Prohibition has proved an ineffective method of minimising these harms. Regulation in this area would be a more effective regulatory avenue to reduce harms.”

The submission also noted that prohibiting the market would not make it disappear and would instead effectively send the market underground, removing responsible operators in the industry from the market. Three years later in 2015, the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission noted that, “CCC intelligence also indicates organised crime groups, including criminal motorcycle gangs, are becoming more involved in the NPS market as both users and suppliers,” a comment which appears to confirm the prediction by the Eros Association and Australia 21.

There have been similar submissions, letters and discussions between the Eros Association and Australian governments over the years, calling for a sensible approach to new drugs. In that time, close to 40 amendments have been made to drug control legislation which have all widened the net of prohibition. In this time, more new drugs have become available and more deaths have occurred, indicating that these new amendments have not created a safer community for Australians.

Dean’s death could have been avoided. Australian governments have systematically ignored nearly all advice and evidence provided to them that doesn’t support an increase in the net of prohibition. Responsible drug dealing already happens across Australia, through alcohol shops, tobacco shops, pharmacists, coffee shops and many more. These legal drugs still cause preventable deaths of Australians, but it is also understood that Australians have the right to make an informed choice.

The vast majority of all drug users, whether legal or illegal are not problematic and want to be able to access their drug of choice safely and with good information.

The Eros Association again calls on politicians to look at the evidence, speak to the people affected, especially consumers and form policy that doesn’t criminalise and harm them further.