• Educated, wealthy, and using drugs: Is it time to change Australia's drug laws?
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 40 per cent of Aussies have tried illegal drugs. Yet, you'd be hard pressed to find a politican, professional or any high profile person who would admit to it.
Airdate: 
Monday, June 23, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures say that last year Australians spent $7 Billion on illegal drugs with drug dealers making a tidy $6 billion profit. The Australian Government spent $1.7 Billion fighting the war on drugs in 2013 alone.

Will Tregoning is a researcher and a co-founder of Unharm - a not for profit organisation that aims to reduce drug harm and demand by challenging current drug policies. He says the typical drug user in Australia doesn't fit our current ideology.

"People have this stereotype that the people who take drugs are heroin addicts who live on the street or dole bludgers at home punching bongs on the couch," says Will. "The reality is that you're more likely to have taken drugs if you're employed, you're more likely to have taken drugs if you've got a tertiary education."

"A lot of wealthy people take illegal drugs."

According to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 9 million Australians have used illegal drugs in their lifetime. That's 40 per cent of the population.

So with so many Australian's now taking illegal drugs - is it time for drug laws to be reformed?

Miles Hunt from Unharm is a lawyer who openly admits to using illegal drugs. He says changing laws around drug use will allow people to be more open about their habits.

"To admit drug use is potentially opening yourself up to being charged by the police for use of drugs," says Miles. "If people can talk about drugs in an open way then you're more likely to be able to come up with solutions to how we can best deal with drugs in society."

"We can't sit here and say 'Oh no why should we decriminalise drugs', we should be saying why are we criminalising people for using drugs, possessing drugs."

"we're looking at people and saying 'you are a criminal for smoking a joint [or] taking an ecstasy pill'... that to me is wrong, it's an injustice that needs to be changed."

Lisa Pryor is a law graduate and medical student who has two children. She co-founded Unharm with Will and Miles to help bring drug law reform to the mainstream.

Lisa openly admits to using marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, prescription drugs like Valium, LSD, and also 'some kind of speed'.

She says part of the problems with illegal drug use is the lack of information about each batch and laws need to be changed to allow people to speak more openly.

"I do feel a little nervous talking publicly about taking illicit drugs," says Lisa. "But in life you have to pick your battles and I think this is a battle worth fighting."

"As a parent I would like to see the laws changed, as well as someone who has used drugs themselves."

Will also wants people to understand that Unharm is not a pro-drugs movement but they want to make sure drug laws keep up with changes in society.

"We're not advocating that everyone go out and try ecstasy," he says. "But we do have to accept the reality that drug use is going to continue... this war on drugs is never going to end."

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