Northern NSW Local Heath District's addictive medicine specialist, Dr David Helliwell says he supports drug decriminalisation and a recommendation to list users on a confidential national register enabling them to buy drugs from approved suppliers like pharmacists.
Northern NSW Local Heath District's addictive medicine specialist, Dr David Helliwell says he supports drug decriminalisation and a recommendation to list users on a confidential national register enabling them to buy drugs from approved suppliers like pharmacists. Marc Stapelberg

Expert supports legalising drugs

A NORTH Coast addictive medicine specialist has supported a report that recommends legalising cannabis and ecstasy for over 16s.

Prepared by the not-for-profit think tank group Australia21, the report suggests prohibition of illegal drugs has failed, resulting in "criminal elements" taking control of the manufacture and supply of illegal drugs without strict quality control.

Northern NSW Local Heath District's addictive medicine specialist, Dr David Helliwell and Nimbin Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said they supported the report's recommendation which would see willing users recorded on a national confidential users' register and able to buy drugs from approved suppliers, likely to be pharmacists.

Both men said this was an issue of health and not criminality.

"This is the second report from this Australia21 mob, who are experts ... they are very strong about drug reform," Mr Balderstone said.

Dr Helliwell said decriminalising cannabis and ecstasy could result in strict regulation and financial benefits for government, while ensuring potency was regulated and users were kept safe.

In addition to strict regulation of the drugs, the government could put in place counselling and education programs for drug users, he said.

The reports also called for a national drug summit to be held next year, something Dr Helliwell and Mr Balderstone support.

"Politically, they are very scared of making any change in this area, despite successful programs overseas," Mr Balderstone said.

The report has also received support from Greens senator Richard Di Natale, but yesterday the Gillard Government rejected legalising cannabis and ecstasy.

A study published last month in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed links between teenage cannabis use and memory and intelligence problems in users by the time they reached middle age.



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