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Beyond Prohibition

Report of the Redfern Legal Centre Drug Law Reform Project

September 1996

5 Comments on the Harm Reduction Model

Respondents were asked to comment in broad terms about the desirability of controlled availability, and about the Principles for Controlled Availability outlined in the paper.

Responses were received from the same group under the same conditions outlined in Chapter 3.

General remarks

General comments on the Model included:

"I would argue that we need to examine specific regulatory options in terms of their potential for harm minimisation and, in particular, to assess the relationship between drug-related harm and particular forms of markets and systems of distribution. As Nicholas Dorn and Nigel South have recently suggested in the UK context, we need to ask: 'What sort of markets do we least dislike, and how can we adjust the control mix so as to push markets in the least undesired (harmful) direction."

"Some of the specific goals proposed for rational drug policy have still to be tested. The means of implementing controls on age, advertising and marketing, and adequate knowledge about safe use are unknown. There should certainly be a framework of treatment for drug related problems. The prescription system is untested, as is the assessment process."

"I wish to endorse (the Model's) contents, especially the point that prohibition has had no positive results. I am not competent to suggest any amendments except to add that I was a registered nurse for about thirty-five years."

"Unfortunately, the (Model) goes much further than the harm minimisation principles of the National Drug Strategy, to the point of having few controls on availability at all."

"In general, harm reduction strategies presuppose the impossibility of addressing the undesirable behaviour and hence direct attention to the consequences. What is not clear, in my mind, is how we define the I undesirable behaviour' with which we are dealing. In other words, is drug use a cause or result of other social or behavioural problems?"

Controlled availability

Should we adopt a "controlled availability" approach in the long term as the best policy direction for currently illicit drugs?

Fourteen were in favour of the concept of controlled availability as outlined in the paper, six were against.


"Supported, because it's sensible."

"(Controlled availability) is needed as the next step in harm minimisation."

"We need education about drug effects, and research too. Controlled availability provides a means both of generating data and of informing users."

"Sends the wrong message to young people."

"Supported, provided that: it is researched for each drug group research is open and rigorous only move to next group if research is favourable"

"Controlled availability as defined seems more like 'uncontrolled availability' when over-the-counter options are included. All drugs with a medical purpose that can help people with an addiction problem should be available on prescription, but not over-the-counter."

"Can't answer for all drugs at this stage. Support idea for cannabis."

"I am unconvinced as to the merits of a 'blanket' approach to controlled availability. More convinced as to the merits of controlled availability of cannabis, perhaps ecstasy, and favour prescribing system for heroin."

Internal consistency

Is the Harm Reduction Model of Controlled Drug Availability internally coherent? For example, are the principles consistent with the stated goals?

Seventeen said yes, four said no.


"Good effort in putting all this together ... the way you've done it contains a lot of common sense."

"I don't think the mechanisms of controlled availability have been spelt out in enough detail to make a judgment about harm minimisation for all drugs."

"They're the best considered proposals I've yet seen coming from an Australian source ... May these proposals enjoy wide readership."

"Raises all the right questions which need to be addressed. The current system needs to be challenged."

"The document could be strengthened by describing the pros and cons of each method of delivery (Eg, prescription and over the counter)."


Do you broadly support the Principles of Controlled Availability set out in the Harm Reduction Model of rug Availability?

Eighteen were in favour, five were opposed.


"The closest to the mark we've seen so far."

"It is this kind of extremism that offers opponents of harm minimisation strategies a platform from which to jump."

"You should be congratulated for doing the exercise. By being specific about details, you give everybody a chance to tear it apart. But that is positive."

"We congratulate the Drug Law Reform Project on the production of such a positive and practical Model, one that if fully and successfully implemented by governments and other decision makers, would most certainly contribute to a substantial reduction of hepatitis C transmission. We look forward to hearing of progress on its implementation."

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