On 30 July 2019 Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL) will hold a discussion on the question, “When should we test for drugs?” A panel consisting of Dr Alex Wodak and Mick Palmer, former AFP Commissioner, will consider this question in relation to pill testing and random roadside drug testing.

Young people are encouraged to attend.

Michael Cope, President of QCCL told The Westender that the QCCL supports pill testing as an appropriate harm minimisation strategy. “However, in the end we need to bring an end to the failed war on drugs“, he said.

“The policy of the QCCL is that the personal use and possession of all drugs (psychoactive substances) and psychotropic plants is decriminalised. One country that has done that is Portugal”, Mr Cope said.

The Portugal Model

Mr Cope said that Portugal decriminalised the personal possession of all drugs in 2001. “This means that, while it is no longer a criminal offence to possess drugs for personal use, it is still an administrative violation, punishable by penalties such as fines or community service. The specific penalty to be applied is decided by ‘Commissions for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction’, which are regional panels made up of legal, health and social work professionals. In reality, the vast majority of those referred to the commissions by the police have their cases ‘suspended’, effectively meaning they receive no penalty. People who are dependent on drugs are encouraged to seek treatment, but are rarely sanctioned if they choose not to – the Commissions’ aim is for people to enter treatment voluntarily; they do not attempt to force them to do so”.

Portugal complemented its policy of decriminalisation by allocating greater resources across the drugs field, expanding and improving prevention, treatment, harm reduction and social reintegration programs.

Mr Cope outlined the effects of the policy:

  1. Levels of drug use is below the European average
  2. Drug use has declined among those aged 15-24, the population most at risk of initiating drug use
  3. Between 2000 and 2005 (the most recent years for which data are available) rates of problematic drug use and injecting drug use decreased
  4. Drug use among adolescents decreased for several years following decriminalisation, but has since risen to around 2003 levels
  5. Rates of continuation of drug use (i.e. the proportion of the population that have ever used an illicit drug and continue to do so) have decreased. Overall, this suggests that removing criminal penalties for personal drug possession did not cause an increase in levels of drug use
  6. The prevalence of drug-related infectious diseases has fallen
  7. Deaths due to drug use have decreased significantly
  8. Decriminalisation significantly reduced the Portuguese prison population and eased the burden on the criminal justice system

“In short none of foreshadowed ill-effects of decriminalisation have come to pass. Whilst it has not lived up to all the positive predictions made for it, the change has been overwhelmingly beneficial. No system can be directly translated from one country to another but this country needs to study the Portuguese example and devise its own model”, Mr Cope said.

Hear more at the QCCL’s panel discussion: “When should we test for drugs?”


Tickets are available through the QCCL website at https://qccl.org.au/

Ticket prices are: Students $10; Members $20; and Non-Members $25. There is a small fee for each of the tickets to be processed.

Date: Tuesday 30th July, 2019 Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM start.

Location: All Saints Convention Centre 330 Ann St, Brisbane.

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