Greens spokesperson for Alcohol and Other Drugs Hon Alison Xamon MLC has today welcomed the bipartisan support of the Legislative Council for her motion to set up a Select Committee to examine alternative approaches to reducing the harm caused by illicit drugs.
Ms Xamon said the Select Committee would inquire into other Australian state jurisdictions and international approaches to reducing harm to the community caused by drug use – including Portugal’s much heralded approach.
She said the committee would look at the weighting given to enforcement, health and social interventions.
“The 10-Year Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Services Plan paints a concerning picture of drug use in WA, with one in 25 having recently used amphetamines or methamphetamines,” Ms Xamon said.
“We know that between 30% and 50% of people with alcohol and other drug problems have a co-occurring mental illness .
Ms Xamon said WA had seen the greatest increase in accidental drug-related deaths with numbers doubling in the past 15 years.
She said the impacts of drugs on the Western Australia community were far-reaching.
“Drug related problems significantly impact the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Western Australians; they play a role in the removal of children across the state; they are a huge problem in our prisons,” Ms Xamon said.
“They are costing the state both socially and economically.”
Ms Xamon said the Portuguese had shown it was possible to turn things around.
She said the European nation had reduced drug deaths from 360 deaths a year in the 1990s to an average of just 26 in 2016 by treating drug use as a health issue and not a criminal one.
“It is clear that the current approach to reducing the harm that illicit drugs cause our community is not working,” Ms Xamon said.
“The crisis is getting worse rather than better because we do not have the right balance.”
The Select Committee will deliver its findings within 12 months.