Drug Reform

The Liberal Democrats support an evidence-based approach to drug policy based on harm minimisation.  The Liberal Democrats support the immediate legalisation of any drug shown to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and the decriminalisation of all other drugs.


Policy & Aims

The Liberal Democrats believe in:

  • The full legalisation of the possession, cultivation, manufacture and sale to adults of all drugs which cause less harm than alcohol or tobacco.

  • Regulation of these drugs to minimise exposure to children.

  • The abolition of civil and criminal penalties for possession of all drugs for personal use.

  • Allowing use of drugs such as MDMA and LSD for therapeutic purposes.

  • Prohibiting driving while demonstrably impaired by the effects of any psychoactive substance.

 

The Liberal Democrats aim to:

  • End the nanny state and reduce government interference in private choices made by adults.

  • Increase the treatment options available to those suffering from chronic disease or mental illness.

  • Reduce the burden on the taxpayer from the misguided prohibition policy towards drugs.

  • Avoid stigmatising drug users with criminal records when there is no other victim.

  • Undermine criminal organisations by legalising their illicit markets.

  • Protect the rights of private organisations to implement policies in relation to drug use consistent with their values.

  • Protect public safety including child safety.

Discussion

The Liberal Democrats believe that adults should be free from government interference when making choices which do not inflict harm on other, non-consenting individuals.

The vast majority of recreational drug use in Australia affects no-one other than the individual consuming the drug. The current approach to recreational drugs is based on ill-informed paranoia, religious puritanism and outdated scientific research, and causes more harm, criminality, poverty and violence than the drug use which it seeks to prevent. It also fails to prevent the use of recreational drugs.

Prohibition does not work

While there are health costs involved in any recreational drug taking activity – especially for developing minds and bodies – prohibition has a number of negative consequences. Firstly, it curtails the individual liberty of grown adults. It should not be an offence to simply possess any substance with the sole intent of putting it inside your own body.

In addition, prohibition leads to illicit markets which result in more funds flowing to organised crime, allowing criminal groups to grow and engage in more violence and crime.

Evidence-based policy

The Liberal Democrats believe in evidence-based policy. For any drug policy to be considered coherent and consistent, it must apply the evidence to all drugs without social, cultural or religious bias. As alcohol and tobacco have been legal in Australia since European settlement, they provide us with a convenient yardstick by which to measure acceptable levels of risk of harm in other recreational drugs.

It would be inconsistent, bordering on incoherent, for any drug policy to suggest that - while alcohol and tobacco should remain perfectly legal for adults - drugs which are clearly less harmful than alcohol and tobacco should be criminalised as “dangerous drugs”. The Liberal Democrats believe that before the government should criminalise any substance, it must be shown to be more harmful than alcohol and tobacco.

Some recreational drugs cause less harm than alcohol and tobacco

There are a number of recreational drugs which have less serious public violence and health effects than alcohol and tobacco, such as cannabis, MDMA and LSD.  Moreover, much of the harm caused by drugs such as MDMA is a direct result of prohibition. Issues that factor significantly into hospitalisations for illicit drug use include:

  • Users being unable to obtain accurate information on dosage amounts,
  • Drugs being in impure form as manufacturers cannot sued or held accountable by the courts, and
  • Users loading up prior to going out, where police are on patrol, leading to overdoses.

The Liberal Democrats would legalise drugs such as MDMA, punishing and shrinking organised crime by taking away the revenue from manufacture and supply of these drugs. As with alcohol, manufacturers will have to clearly label the dosage of such drugs in a standard format, and retailers would be required to take steps to ensure purchasers are adults.

Don't drug and drive

The Liberal Democrats recognise that one of the short term effects of the use of psychoactive substances is the impairment of cognitive and psychomotor functions. Thus the Liberal Democrats believe that driving on public roads while clearly impaired should remain illegal. However the thresholds for such impairment levels should be set at a level that has been demonstrated to result in a similar effect on driving skills as the alcohol limit, and should not punish users whose level of the drug in their system is so low that there is no demonstrable effect on their driving ability.

The Liberal Democrats are unaware of any societal benefit arising from imposing criminal penalties on recreational drug users, regardless of the drug.  The harassment of recreational drug users with fines and threats of jail impedes access to health services, is alienating, and facilitates further criminality.