Drugs are a big problem throughout Australia. Hundreds of people die each year from drug overdoses and many crimes can be easily linked to drug use.
John Howard has devoted $516 million of the Federal budget to the 'tough on drugs' stance Australia has taken. Despite this, drugs are still a large problem that affects everybody throughout society in some form.
The control of drugs has been a world-wide concern since the International Opium Commission, also known as the Shanghai Conference held in 1909. An Opium Conference at the Hague in 1911 created the first treaty which tried to control opium and cocaine through a world wide agreement. This was known as the 1912 Hague Opium Convention.
The Hague Convention has been administered by the United Nations as of 1946.
The International Narcotics Control Board was established in 1968 and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was established even earlier in 1946.
The role of the International Narcotics Board is to limit the cultivation, production, manufacture and utilisation of drugs and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is the main policy making commission within the United Nations for dealing with all questions about drug control.
Australia's drug policy, the National Illicit Drug Strategy, commonly known as 'tough on drugs' plays a major role in the control of illicit drugs in Australia.
The Howard government has allocated $516 million to try to reduce the supply and demand for illicit drugs.
$225 million of that $516 million has been allocated to numerous supply reduction measures to intercept more illicit drugs at the country and state borders.
The remaining $291 million has been allocated to reducing the demand for drugs, covering the following 5 main areas.
1. Treatment of users of illicit drugs, including identification of best practice.
2. Prevention of illicit drug use.
3. Training and skills development for front line workers who come into contact with drug users or at risk groups.
4. Monitoring and evaluation, including data collection.
The Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs has also been formed to provide advice on policies for government ministers on a wide range of drug-related matters.
Compared to the United States, Australia's policy on drugs is cheap.
The United States policy is one which emphasises on law enforcement and drug prohibition.
In 1980, the United States federal budget for drug control was approximately US$1 billion, and state and local budgets were around two to three times that. By 1997, the federal budgets for drug control reached US$16 billion, with two thirds of it going to law enforcement agencies. The state and local funding increased in conjunction with the federal.
In brief, the United States has the best-funded, largest scale, longest functioning, and most consistent drug use surveillance and data monitoring system the world has ever seen.
Australia has agreed to numerous world treaties in an attempt to strengthen its drug control policies.
A few of these treaties are outlined below.
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)
Firstly, this Convention seeks to limit the possession, use, trade, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs used only for medical purposes.
Secondlyt, it fights drug trafficking through international cooperation to scare off and discourage drug traffickers.
Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971)
This Convention establishes an international control system for psychotropic substances. It introduced controls over a number of synthetic drugs according to their potential for abuse and their therapeutic value.
United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988)
This Convention provides legislation against drug trafficking, including legislation against money laundering and the diversion of base chemicals. It allows international cooperation such as the extradition of drug traffickers, controlled deliveries and the transfer of proceedings.
As shown in the graph below, the number of deaths due to drug overdoses is slowly decreasing from its all-time high in 1999, but that doesn't mean to say that there won't be a large scale drug boom in the next few years that will see the number of deaths jump back into the high 900's.
If something isn't done soon, then drugs will take over our economy and the most powerful people in the world will be those who have control of the world drug trade.
To ensure this doesn't happen, we need to lower the tolerance we have on drugs and increase the penalties for drug offences, in much the same way we have when it comes to terrorism.