Drug Regulation and Harm Minimisation

Principles:

The Greens NSW believe:

1. Drug use has occurred throughout history and this is unlikely to change. Further, abuse of drugs causes massive harm. Drug abuse poses a serious risk to the mental and physical health of individuals, and their families, and is costly to communities and society.

2. Notwithstanding the positive medical, cultural, creative and relaxation benefits of drugs, the abuse of drugs, not just illicit substances but also currently legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco has a wide range of adverse health, social and economic effects. The task of drug policy is to minimise the harms from drug use, including to ensure that where use occurs, it is as safe as possible and to make users fully aware of the possible adverse effects.

3. The so-called ‘War on Drugs’, with its emphasis on prohibition and ‘law and order’ policies, has manifestly failed to reduce the harmful use of drugs and associated social impacts. Alternatives to prohibition for drug policy have been successfully trialled and legislated internationally.

4. In practice, drug prohibition leads to the development of unregulated black markets that encourage the growth of corruption and organised crime.  Therefore, the use and possession of quantities of all drugs for personal use should be treated as a health and social issue and not as a matter of law enforcement.

5. Taxes recouped from a regulated supply of drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) should be directed to an independent drug regulatory authority to adequately fund its activities, and the prevention of harmful drug use. Regulated drug use in our society should always be coupled with a harm minimisation approach, including policies and programs directed towards reducing the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use to the user and the community.

6. Information and education programs relating to all drugs should be made freely available to enable informed and safe drug use and the development of sensible community attitudes.

7. Drug policy and regulation, including the development of regulated supplies of some drugs, should be informed by evidence and developed under the guidance of health experts. Programs should be continuously evaluated and tested against new drugs and emerging user behaviours.

8. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities must control to the greatest extent possible the development and management of alcohol and drug harm minimisation programs in their communities with adequate funding  for their population’s needs.

9. Drug policies must be sensitive to the needs of other vulnerable groups. The state has an essential role in protecting people from exploitation and preventing profiteering from drugs.

10. The health and safety of the drug user(s), local community, the police, paramedics, nurses and doctors is paramount when developing strategies to deal with people affected by drugs and alcohol.

11. The primary drivers of harmful consumption of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco are price, availability and promotion. These three factors must be effectively managed to minimise the harmful impacts of over-consumption.

12. The strength of the emotional attachment to alcohol promoted by marketing and cultural norms must also be acknowledged as a contributing factor to the continued popularity and ubiquitousness of alcohol in social or celebratory events.

13. The ingredients and nutritional information in an easily readable form to become mandatory on alcohol packaging.

Aims

The Greens NSW will work towards:

Prevention

14. In advertising:

14.1. Ban advertising promotions for alcohol that encourage harmful and or underage drinking and continue the ban on tobacco advertising.

14.2. Ban the sponsorship and advertising of alcohol of sporting events, teams and venues.

14.3. Ensure public and transparent participation into any review of alcohol advertising and promotions.

15. Require mandatory evidence-based health warnings on all drug products. These warnings must be prominent.

16. Reform licensing laws with respect to changes in opening hours and density of outlets to put the onus on licensees to prove that such changes will not adversely affect public health and safety. Also reform the laws to favour venue types, for instance small bars, which are less likely to encourage rapid consumption of alcohol which is linked to increases in alcohol-related crime.

17. Support comprehensive evidence-based education programs on the risks and harms of drug use, especially for children and young people and including specific areas of concern such as driving or operating heavy machinery under the influence.

18. Develop community-based programs to empower people to take control of their drug use through education as to strategies to control problem use.

19. Reform licensing laws to require annual risk-based licence applications. Where premises have to reapply each year for their licence subject to reassessment of operating practices and community consultation. Revenue raised from licensing should cover a significant proportion of the costs of further harm minimisation, community safety, prevention, and clean up measures.

20. Licence fees for on-premise venues should be set on a sliding scale that is based on the volume of alcohol sold, patron capacity and the number and severity of reported violent incidents with discounts for the provision of live music. The objective is to avoid undermining the viability of smaller bars and those that provide live music.

21. Licence fees for package liquor outlets should be set by alcohol-related harm and violence statistics for the outlet’s postcode, including police reports and hospital admittance numbers.

22. High levels of domestic violence or existing bottle-shop density should preclude new applications for off-premises licences or the expansion of existing stores.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment

23. Improve access to, and the effectiveness and capacity of the drug and alcohol treatment system with increased funding, more and better facilities and staffing levels by diverting funds from punitive law enforcement programs.  Also increase funding for the related range of health, mental health, rehabilitation and ongoing support services for people with adverse effects from use of drugs, including families and carers of substance users.

24. Extend access to free counselling and treatment programs under the health system and fund targeted drug and alcohol treatment programs for high-risk groups.

25. Make proven replacement treatments accessible, with intensive psycho-social support as a means of treating drug dependence.

26. Support scientific trials of new replacement treatments for substance dependence.

27. Increase the availability of voluntary diversion to rehabilitation and treatment programs as a sentencing alternative for people accused of crimes to which an addiction or intoxication was a contributing factor.

28. Ensure that drug treatment and harm minimisation programs are equally available across the community, in prisons, for young and elderly people and for people with disabilities, prioritising high-risk groups.

Non-treatment Harm Minimisation Strategies

29. Increase the availability of harm reduction programs, including needle and syringe exchanges and medically supervised injecting rooms.

30. Ensure effective crowd management and transport solutions are available in entertainment precincts. Hot spot areas in particular require appropriate transportation to be available for the full duration of premises opening hours.

31. Ensure that Local Liquor Accord representation is balanced between industry, council and community. Require all licensed venues to become members of their Local Liquor Accord, paying a fee commensurate to their size and impact on alcohol related problems in the area according to venue type.

32. Revenue collected by the Local Liquor Accord to be available to local councils for the purposes of mitigating the impacts of alcohol consumption and addressing the costs of the impacts.

33. Local Alcohol Management Plans:

33.1. Empower local councils, in active collaboration with the public, to develop Alcohol Management Plans for their communities that are enforceable by the Director General.

33.2. Local Action Management Plans may contain any measures that relate to restrictions on the hours of sale of alcohol, hours of operations for venues, new licence freezes, transportation measures, data collection and community education.

33.3. In the absence of a Local Action Management Plan, support communities requesting the implementation of an alcohol licensing restriction trail if a demonstrated need exists and there is community support.

34. Empower communities to oppose bottle shop licences application by:

34.1. Changing legislation to give local communities standing with the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority,

34.2. Provide resources to the community, including free legal advice.

35. Continue restrictions on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products to people under 18 years of age.

36. Reform alcohol taxation so that the tax rate is based on alcohol content rather than beverage type.

37. Maintain and strengthen bans on smoking in workplaces and other defined public places to reduce the impacts of passive smoking.

38. Ban donations from the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries to political parties.

39. Support penalties for driving with impaired cognitive or psycho-motor skills due to the consumption of alcohol and other drugs that are based on evidence and risk management.

40. Ensure there are no criminal sanctions for personal drug use and the possession of associated implements.

41. Remove all criminal sanctions for the possession and use of personal quantities of cannabis and MDMA, including the cultivation of a small number of cannabis plants for personal use.

42. Establish an independent drug regulatory authority to develop evidence-based and continuously evaluated policies and programs for safer drug use. The authority is to be governed by an advisory committee made up of independent experts, and ensuring that the best policies are developed as new drugs and drug use behaviours emerge. The scope of policies determined by this authority can include the development of a legal regulated supply of drugs managed by this authority, starting with the supply of cannabis and MDMA.

43. The new state drug regulatory authority should provide expert advice to government as to the best laws and measures to regulate the licensing of premises selling alcohol based on the best available scientific evidence.

44. Ensure the supply of any quantity of cannabis, MDMA, or other illegal drugs by an adult to a juvenile will remain a criminal offence.

45. Provide for regulated supply of cannabis and MDMA to adults in NSW.

46. Retain criminal penalties for the unsanctioned production, importation and commercial-scale supply of drugs and especially for sale of drugs with harmful impurities.

47. Require the legal responsibilities of licensed venues such as Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) guidelines to be actively enforced by officers undertaking thorough and regular operations to monitor venue practices at key problem times. Increase penalties for the licensee, but not staff, for failure to adhere to RSA guidelines.

48. Improve RSA training quality and the testing of competencies. Also improve training for staff in dealing with violent and intimidating behaviours.

49. Reform the ‘3-strikes’ legislation to fulfil its original purpose, by re-evaluating the penalties and removing the existing discretionary powers of the Director-General.

Other measures:

50. Support the comprehensive roll out of non-sniffable fuel throughout regions of NSW where petrol sniffing is endemic, with associated diversionary and rehabilitation programs.

51. End the NSW Police practice of using sniffer dogs in public places to carry out stop-and-searches, because it is both a proven ineffective policing practice and an infringement of civil liberties.

52. Allow drugs to be regulated and provided for medicinal purposes based solely on their therapeutic and palliative effects.

53. Drug Courts and the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (‘MERIT’) scheme should operate in NSW and be extended throughout NSW.