Cooked QLD Government Rejects Recommendations to Decriminalise Drugs

Productivity Commission Recommendations for Drug Policy Reform Snubbed by QLD Labor Government… on Election Year?

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has recently ruled out decriminalising drugs. Her statements stand in stark contrast with projections from her own Government reports, indicating that drug decriminalisation would lead to drastic cuts in the percentage of the population incarcerated.
Additionally, the Government could be saving hundreds of millions of dollars every year… but, unfortunately, Queensland Labor leadership has made it clear that it doesn’t want to take the political risk.

Decriminalisation of substance use was the centrepiece of 42 reforms proposed by the Queensland Productivity Commission (QPC), in an examination of the state’s overcrowded prison system, delivered last year.

A couple of weeks ago, the Palaszczuk Government released its response to the mammoth 516-page report. Their comments include commitments to the implementation of a series of criminal justice reforms, as recommended by the commission.

Disappointingly, however, the Government has rejected the report’s calls to decriminalise cannabis and other drugs, practically going against the evidence-based findings of their own report.

Key Findings:

  • Queensland spends $500 million a year on drug law enforcement.
  • Queensland Productivity Commission: “All available evidence” shows the war on drugs fails to restrict usage or supply.
  • Proposed reforms would lower prisoner numbers by up to 30 per cent in five years.

The Benefits of Decriminalisation (According to the QPC)

The QPC recommends decriminalising MDMA (ecstasy), calling it a “lower harm drug”. (Supplied: Curtin University)

The QPC’s cost-benefit analysis found that decriminalising the use and possession of cannabis would save about $850 million. This could rise to over $1.2 billion if the Government chose to fully legalise and regulate the supply of “lower-harm drugs, such as cannabis and MDMA”.

According to the report, in order to address the growth in prison numbers, Queensland will need to invest an additional $3.6 billion in the next five years to house an additional 4200 prisoners. [3]

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The commission also estimated that prison populations across Queensland would drop between 20 to 30 per cent by 2025 – if drugs were to be decriminalised today. [3]

This would save somewhere between $165 million and $270 million in annual prison costs, avoiding $2.1 billion in prison investments. Over 2 billion dollars, that could instead be funding rehabilitation and treatment programs – or otherwise going towards education, research and development, public health, infrastructure, and other long-term, forward-thinking projects with broad-spectrum positive impacts. [3]

The report also found that decriminalisation would improve the lives of drug addicts – without increasing the rate of drug use (ha, imagine that!). The report noted the lack of evidence for an increase in consumption where cannabis has already been decriminalised – like in the case of Portugal, for instance.

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Imprisonment is Not Working

The Productivity Commission report has uncovered – in painstaking detail – the steady rise of imprisonment rates across the state. It has highlighted the costs of incarceration in contrast to rehabilitation. [3]

In 2018/2019, Queensland broke records, reaching the highest rate per 100,000 people incarcerated since federation — with Indigenous people in particular being imprisoned at rates 10 times higher than the general population. Almost half of all prisoners have been hospitalised for mental health issues, or have some history with ‘child protection’.

Further, as police detection of crimes improves, the prison population continues to grow, rising by more than 160% per head of population since 1992. It costs $111,000 in direct costs each year per prisoner, with another $48,000 per year in indirect costs. The QPC estimates it costs the state about $500 million to imprison approximately 1,840 people for drug-related crimes – annually. Prison investment threatens to balloon out of control without a transformative and rehabilitative approach to drug policy and criminal justice.

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Australia is Experiencing a Drug Prohibition Crisis

There was a clear admission within the report that “all available evidence” suggests that the so-called “War on Drugs” policy framework has ultimately failed to attenuate supply or use. The report indicates that state policy has been ineffective for decades.

The Productivity Commission has also come to the conclusion that the law enforcement system in Queensland has fuelled illegal activity in black markets, contributing to the increased prevalence of harmful substances – such as the methamphetamine and opiates sold by criminal gangs.

“Illicit drugs are now responsible for more deaths than road accidents in Queensland…”

– QPC Report

Since 1997, the rate of drug-related accidental deaths in Queensland has jumped 144 per cent. It’s not just Queensland. [3] All across Australia – if you make an exception for the Capital Territory – you’ll hear a similar story.

Palaszczuk Embarrassed by Independent Commission

Annastacia pulling a symbol of white supremacy. (that’s a joke)

Sources

[1] https://www.northweststar.com.au/story/6607546/qld-government-shirks-drug-issue-in-productivity-commission-response/?fbclid=IwAR2NbhiopUXq9cVdlmPGTZEr18lKfPsVHF0JeQ8MBZUja-DkEePWnbL7YA0

[2] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-31/drug-offences-penalties-qld-police-prison/11918390?fbclid=IwAR2ErBIRxlJ9E1YBVPQnw0I1jZO0xQp1wjrkSxk4CN42W2sEyHVLQjDhv74

[3] https://qpc.blob.core.windows.net/wordpress/2020/01/SUMMARY-REPORT-Imprisonment-.pdf

[4] https://www.qpc.qld.gov.au/inquiries/imprisonment/

Mitch
Mitch Keys is a young writer from Brisbane, Australia unfolding in a dynamic process of becoming (like everyone else, so don’t go thinking he’s special or anything). He likes being alive.

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5 months ago
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Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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[…] A couple of weeks ago, Josip and Mitch woke one morning, got dressed and into the car, brought their ZOOM microphone to the Indooroopilly office of Michael Berkman, and recorded an hour-long interview with the only representative in our unicameral Queensland parliament who is explicitly in favour of common-sense drug law reforms, as laid out in the recent Queensland Productivity Commission report. […]

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