DEFENCE GOES 'SOFT' ON DRUGS
MILITARY personnel who admit they have drug problems are being referred at
government expense to civilian treatment programs, some of which advise
them on safer drug use such as eating hash cookies instead of smoking "joints".
In a deviation from its stated zero tolerance policy, the Defence
Department is quietly preparing the way for the acceptance of the use of
some "soft" drugs.
Forensic psychiatrist Rod Milton, who is a long-time member of the RAAF and
an adviser to the military, said the new "agenda" was driven by the Defence
mental health directorate.
In his view, it not only threatened the zero tolerance approach but risked
causing a major split in defence circles.
Dr Milton is only one of those involved expressing concerns about Defence's
new drug and alcohol treatment programs. Some Defence sources claim there
is a dramatic shift in the "paradigm of treatment" for drug and alcohol abuse.
"We are slowly being prepared to accept levels of recreational drugs," one
defence professional said.
But Defence denies it has scrapped zero tolerance. It also denies taking a
softer line on recreational drugs.
Defence said that 76 personnel who this year tested positive for drugs had
been asked to "show cause" as to why they should not be sacked.
Dr Milton has written to Defence Minister Robert Hill warning him about the
"alarming developments" in Defence's alcohol and drug abuse treatment.
"RAAF members using marijuana (are being) directed to civilian counsellors
using an approach known as 'Weed Control' which aims at reduction in usage
not necessarily abstinence," he said in the letter to Senator Hill.
Effective Weed Control also gives recipes for "pot butter" for use on toast
and in cakes and biscuits.
In May at Defence's annual mental health conference, strategies for dealing
with alcohol, drugs and suicide were discussed behind closed doors.
Chief Defence doctor Tony Austin said then the Defence Force was not
abandoning its zero tolerance policy but no one would be "automatically"
discharged for using recreational drugs.
Air Commodore Austin said it would be "unnatural justice" and "unduly
harsh" to throw a person out of the forces who had shown a "failure of
He managed to suggest heroin use would not be tolerated but there was a
different attitude to marijuana.
Dr Milton's concerns were addressed by Mal Brough, formerly the minister
assisting Senator Hill, who wrote back to say that "Effective Weed Control"
was a model that reflected "current field practice". Mr Brough's office
said that in the case of one soldier, Defence had considered sending him to
the Effective Weed Control program. They said it was just one of the
Opposition defence spokesman Chris Evans declined to comment.