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Australian drug law reform report: Explore sniffer dog use, recreational cannabis

A report into drug law reform has made 50 recommendations in the state of Victoria

  • 27 March 2018
Australian drug law reform report: Explore sniffer dog use, recreational cannabis

A parliamentary report in the Australian state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital city, has recommended the government explore the use of sniffer dogs, drug checking services at events and potential to regulate recreational cannabis.

The framework is "based upon a broad acknowledgement of the importance of conceptualising illicit substance use as a health and social issue rather than a strictly law enforcement issue in recognition that the criminalisation of drugs is not achieving its intended objectives."

The Inquiry into Drug Law Reform made 50 recommendations, including that a new Victorian governance structure be established to oversee a new drug strategy: a Ministerial Council on Drugs Policy and an Advisory Council on Drugs Policy.

That Advisory Council should monitor the use of drug checking services around the world to inform a potential trial in Victoria and develop guidelines for such a trial. It should also investigate international developments in the regulated supply of cannabis and advise the government, the report states.

Victoria Police should commission an independent evaluation of the use of drug detection dogs at music festivals and other spaces to "determine their effectiveness in deterring the use and trafficking of illicit substances, and any unintended consequences or risk of harms resulting from this strategy."

It recommends the government work to facilitate an onsite drug testing unit for health and law enforcement authorities at a music festival to be used in the event of serious drug-induced illness to assist treatment of the patient and, where appropriate, release a public alert to prevent further incidents.

This unit would operate as part of an early warning system used to communicate to the public new psychoactive substances and other illicit substances of concern, the establishment of which was also recommended.

Committee chair Geoff Howard MP wrote in his foreword: "Historically, the approach to drugs both internationally and in Australia was based on prohibition of recreational drug use, although there is growing recognition that a dominant focus on law enforcement strategies has not eradicated the supply or demand for such substances, but has contributed to increased harms such as overdoses and black market crime.

"A reorientation to a health-based framework does not suggest going soft on crime but rather emphasises that responses to illicit drug use should focus on trafficking and punishment of criminal behaviour arising from use, while people apprehended solely for use and personal possession be directed to a range of treatment and support options, where necessary. "

Victoria is home to festivals including Rainbow Serpent, Pitch Music & Arts and Babylon.

The government will respond to the report in the coming months.

Read the full list of recommendations, which also includes potential reforms to roadside testing and how possession for personal use is treated, here.

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