Greens 'To Import Heroin'
by Rick Wallace, Victorian political reporter, (18 Jul 2006) Australian Australia
FACTORY-produced heroin will be imported into Australia and prescribed for long-term addicts under the Victorian Greens' drugs policy. The Greens -- predicted to hold the balance of power in Victoria after the November state election -- also announced plans for supervised heroin injection rooms, and the scrapping of all criminal penalties for drug use.
Greens Victorian upper house candidate Colleen Hartland said the proposals would reduce harm and save lives.
"Current approaches are not working, so it is time to step back from the emotional debate and work to implement programs that will effectively tackle the problems associated with legal and illegal drugs," she said.
The Greens heroin trial proposal mirrors equivalent moves in Europe and Vancouver, Canada, where prescription heroin is given to addicts who have become resistant to methadone.
Advocates say it provides a safe source for a drug that addicts would otherwise steal to purchase, while detractors say it sends the wrong message to the community on a dangerous drug.
Premier Steve Bracks dismissed the policy but would not be drawn on whether a preference deal would be struck between Labor and the Greens.
A spokesman for Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu condemned the Greens for their policy.
"The policy is ill-conceived. The Liberal Party is completely opposed to this and to heroin injecting rooms," he said.
Under the policy, the production, sale or trafficking of illicit drugs would remain an offence, but users would only face a court order requiring them to participate in a health scheme.
The Greens said the heroin trial was needed for those addicts who, through their long-term use, had become resistant to current methadone-based treatments.
"It's not the decriminalisation of heroin," Ms Hartland said. "It's about having a trial to see whether people with long-term chronic use can be assisted in this way."
Greens health adviser Richard Di Natale said the drug would not be manufactured in Australia, but imported from pharmaceutical companies that supplied other heroin trials across the globe.
The Greens policy also proposes to regulate medicinal marijuana use, while needle exchange facilities would be rolled out statewide to cut rates of hepatitis and HIV infection among users.
The legal drugs -- alcohol and tobacco -- are also targeted, with the Greens calling for a ban on all tobacco advertising and sponsorship, and an end to advertisements that "glamorise" alcohol, particularly to teenagers.