A new report on Australia's approach to managing illicit substances has called for the progressive decriminalisation of drugs.
Australia's prohibition-based drugs strategy is futile, counterproductive and unfair, according to a report that calls for the progressive decriminalisation of illicit substances.
The document, compiled by think tank Australia21 after a 2015 round-table meeting of former police commissioners, prosecutors, judges and advocates, also recommends a testing regime so users can be confident what they consume is safe.
The report "Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely?" questions why 190 countries continue with prohibition-based models, with one unnamed participant arguing it's only because of their political appeal.
Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, who launched the report in Sydney, criticised politicians for lacking the courage to try something new.
"The issue of deaths and wasted lives should always be a top priority for any we elect to govern our affairs," Mr Kennett said on Monday.
"Yet in this area of drugs, I don't think it gets that priority."
Mr Kennett said there had been no "seminal advance" in 40 to 50 years with the exception of Sydney's safe injecting facility, which the report suggested should be replicated elsewhere in Australia.
According to the Australian Crime Commission, there are 80,000 arrests for drug consumption annually.
Participants said the legacy of 50 years of prohibition was growth in the size and danger of the drug market, a drop in the price of drugs by more than 80 per cent, improved availability and a rise in drug-related crime.
They agreed drug use should be treated primarily as a social and health problem.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Hal Sperling said "attempting enforced prohibition of mood-altering substances in these circumstances is futile and counterproductive".
Dr Alex Wodak, a former St Vincent's Hospital physician, said the "comprehensive" failure of prohibition was increasingly acknowledged.
"Drug prohibition is also unfair and unjust, was not based on good evidence, is now flagrantly contradicted by good evidence and was developed with poor processes," Dr Wodak said.
The report floated possible regulation and tax models, looking to overseas experiences, and said psychoactive drugs should be moved from the black market to the white market, starting with the least harmful substances.
It said any move towards decriminalisation must be accompanied by an effective marketing strategy to promote the success of the changes in Australia and overseas.
The document warned its recommendations should be adopted only after a careful evaluation of local evidence.