Last week two young men died tragically in Queensland after smoking a form of synthetic cannabis. The media and police wasted no time in attributing the deaths directly to the use of the synthetic substance, unfortunately in the absence of a proper investigation into the actual causes of death.
Eros Social Tonics Coordinator Nick Wallis said that media conjecture on the circumstantial evidence that was available was not sufficient to establish a cause and effect situation.
Wallis said that if the deaths were found to be linked to the use of synthetic cannabinoids, then legislators would have to shoulder most of the responsibility in that they have failed to provide a regulatory scheme that keeps dangerous drugs out of the marketplace.
“We have long argued that this problem will not go away by increasing prohibition laws and increasing the ‘tough on drugs’ rhetoric,” he said.
“The fact is, these substances exist as a direct response to prohibition and more prohibition will only deliver more drugs into the community.”
The Australian Science Media Centre quoted Richard Kevin, a PhD student studying synthetic cannabinoids.
He said: “Even when a specific synthetic drug is outlawed, or even an entire class of drugs, the molecular structure can often be tweaked slightly so that the new compound falls outside of existing legislation. This results in a large variety of synthetic cannabinoids with largely unknown toxicity.”
Senior Australian National University Clinical Lecturer in Medicine, Dr David Caldicott, has called on governments to look for better solutions.
“We need wittier and wiser responses to the problem of harm from drugs if these deaths are not to become a more frequent occurrence in a generation of young Australians,” he said.
Only two days after the tragic incident in Queensland a small business in Canberra was raided by police and a reported $25,000 of synthetic cannabis was seized. The raid was conducted after police received a tipoff from the public.
With respect to cannabis in the ACT, it is illegal to:
- Administer it to someone else
- Possess any quantity of it
- Cultivate or be involved in cultivating any quantity of it
- Sell or supply any quantity of it.
Penalties start at $100 fines for simple cannabis offences, and range up to $250,000 fines and life imprisonment for more serious cannabis offences.
Last week was a grim reminder of the futility with which governments and authorities across Australia approach the simple reality that people, regardless of the law, will and have always taken drugs. It is time for politicians to start taking personal responsibility for the unethical and simplistic laws which are creating a chemical arms race throughout Australia.
Regulation is the only way to stop criminal cartels. Regulation and education is the only way that citizens will be able to make informed decisions. It is my position that governments not only insult the public by perpetuating the unwinnable war on drugs, they also insult the police who are forced to fight the unwinnable war.
The policies of Australian governments, including the ACT, result in young people being exposed to criminals and dangerous substances that otherwise would not exist without the immoral prohibitionist policies of the major political parties.