So West Coast Eagles star Ben Cousins gets charged with possessing an illegal drug and thousands of dollars of Western Australian taxpayers’ money will be wasted on processing, charging and prosecuting him. Wasted yes, because every day of the year, year in year out, our police forces are prosecuting individuals for similar offences. And yet the impact on illicit drug usage in our community is a big fat ZERO.

Sure politicians love to seize on figures that show a decline in use in say Ice to justify their wrongheaded approach to illicit drug use, but what they don’t tell you is that at the same time as they are gloating over these figures, use of some other illicit drug has shot through the roof.

The war on drugs is ridiculous and the sooner we realise that as a society the better. Do politicians really think that the fact that high profile people like Ben Cousins and his team mate Daniel Chick coming to the attention of the police for alleged possession of illicit drugs, is going to send a shiver down the spine of anyone and make them think twice about popping an ‘E’ next Saturday night at a Rave party? If they do then they are truly delusional.

At the same time as Mr Cousins is making headlines in Perth, in the UK two people who are at the coalface of enforcing drugs laws are being courageous enough to stand up to knee jerk politicians and tell it like it is.

First there is Lord Ramsbotham, the former Inspector General of Prisons. Lord Ramsbotham did not mince his words when he observed yesterday:

The present regime has failed in every way…I used to reckon that 80 per cent of those people received into prison were misusing a substance of some kind when they came in. The amount of acquisitive crime connected to drug abuse is immense. That is why there needs to be a new approach.

And Lord Ramsbotham endorsed the stance being taken by the Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom who said last week that the war on drugs is unwinnable:

This system has not worked well. Illegal drugs are now in plentiful supply, and have become consistently cheaper in real terms over the years. The number of users has increased dramatically. Drug crime has soared equally dramatically as a direct consequence of the illegality of some drugs and the huge profits from illegal trading have supported a massive rise in organised criminality. Most importantly, the current system illogically excludes both alcohol and tobacco.

Interesting isn’t it that those who have to deal with the implementation of the current drugs laws keep telling their political masters that it’s just not working.

Yet politicians, remote from the reality and scared to death of right wing moralists and shock jocks, continue to waste our money on futile exercises like the arrest of Ben Cousins.

Peter Fray

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