Decriminalising Heroin, Cocaine Can Only Lead to One Outcome for the Community

Decriminalising Heroin, Cocaine Can Only Lead to One Outcome for the Community
Australian Federal Police display 75 kilograms of heroin at a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, on May 27, 2003. (Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)
Eric Abetz

Drugs are a scourge that destroys families and communities.

No matter how one seeks to dress up the facts and legacy of drug use, it has an unacceptably ugly picture. The toll on the individual and society is huge.

Armed with these indisputable facts, the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Labor-Greens government has decided to decriminalise hard drug use in “small” quantities.

It’s all in the name of harm minimisation and the chant that drug use (read abuse) is a health issue and not a criminal one.

How can any authority responsibly assert that drug use in small amounts is something equal to a parking offence?

Under the proposed laws, which will come into effect in the ACT in late October 2023, being caught with a small quantity of drugs will see you receive a civil, that is non-criminal, penalty of $100 (US$65).

The lowest parking infringement fine in the ACT is $125 and can be as high as $625.

Which begs the question—which behaviour is more destructive, overstaying in a parking zone or drug taking?

The ACT government clearly believes the former because a doctor running late is a more egregious offence than drug taking.

The new penalty regime also provides an insight into the thinking (if that is what it can be called) of the ACT government.

To send a message that any amount of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine use is neither here nor there is at best reckless and at worst criminal.

Make no mistake, lives will be wrecked on the back of this short-sighted decision, especially that of young people.

The avalanche of evidence indicating that even one dabble in drugs can forever change a person’s mental well-being should be enough to continue the message that we need to be tough on drugs to protect the members of our community.

The mind-altering nature of drugs, and let’s remember that is why people take drugs and are cajoled into trying them, is horrific.

They momentarily take people out of the real world with long-lasting behavioural and physical consequences. At a time of high mental health issues and suicide, not to mention violence, the last thing any legislator should be doing is knowingly making that situation worse by pretending drug taking is not a serious issue with all its devastation.

In the End, the Taxpayer Will Bear the Cost

Bureaucrats and office-bound researchers may have their theoretical constructs as to why their latest move to go soft on drugs is a societal good. However, the lived experience of places like Portland, Oregon where this has been tried may be instructive.

The cost to the health system is phenomenal. The ACT will not be immune.

Indeed, ACT taxpayers will be footing the bill for the extra health costs which will surely follow this despicable decision.

Aside from health are the crime aspects which will also permeate the Canberra area.

The Australian Federal Police have rightly called out this change and the challenges their front-line officers will face. The fear that notorious dealers from other areas of Australia will come to the ACT as it is more conducive to their business model cannot be ignored.

Will the change in the law see people from neighbouring states come to the ACT for a weekend of drug-fuelled partying? Yes, very likely. And in the end, the costs will be borne by ACT residents.

As for the old chestnut, that prohibition does not work—nor does not work for murder and a whole host of other crimes either. It doesn’t even work for parking, so why bother?

The suggestion that a significant minority of the population has tried drugs is interesting. Does society accept that a significant minority (or is it a majority) exceed the speed (no pun intended) limit?

What is the road safety message? Speed kills.

Prohibition allows the community’s abhorrence of any offence to be registered in the community consciousness which allows it to be spread far and wide.

If drug prohibition only saves one life allows one extra person to keep their job or spares one person from violence, the prohibition restricting usage will have served an overwhelming community good.

The suggestion that drug use is of less concern than a parking infringement sends out the not only wrong but absolutely false message that drugs in small quantities don’t really matter.

It’s a simple, true, and necessary message that needs wide publicity—drugs destroy. Decriminalising drugs will see even more destruction.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
The Hon. Eric Abetz was an Australian Liberal Party senator from 1994-2022. He has held several cabinet positions and served on parliamentary committees examining Electoral Matters, Native Title, Legal and Constitutional Affairs, as well as Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.