A leading Tasmanian drug reform advocate is urging the state government to show "courageous leadership" after another report recommended decriminalising drug use and possessions, and introducing pill testing.
The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug 'Ice' was released last week, adding to the list of governmental reports from multiple jurisdictions calling for bold action on drug reform.
Among the 109 recommendations was the need for supervised drug consumption services based on local need and clinically supervised substance testing and education services.
The NSW Government immediately rejected the recommendations.
Last year, both the Tasmanian government and opposition rubbished suggestions for medical facilities to provide pipes for the consumption of crystal methamphetamine, despite drug reform advocates claiming it was an effective harm minimisation method.
The Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council Tasmania believed there was an opportunity for Tasmania to show leadership on drug reform.
ATDC chief executive Alison Lai said community attitudes towards harm minimisation were changing, and the government did not need to fear political fallout from adopting evidence-based policies.
"Each time these reports come out from other jurisdictions that can reduce harm, the more tenuous it becomes for any politician of any political persuasion to say they're not doing it because of the evidence," she said.
"They just have to show courageous leadership and be brave enough to know that if they try these progressive drug strategies, it'll be OK."
The 1200-page NSW inquiry recommended the government implement a model for the decriminalisation of the use and possession for personal use of prohibited drugs.
It included the removal of criminal offences for personal use, the confiscation of drugs and referral of people to voluntary health, social or education intervention programs and no civic sanctions for non-compliance.
Ms Lai said making drug use a criminal issue had been a proven failure throughout the world, and decriminalisation was a key step in making it a health issue.
"If police find someone on the street and they are in possession of a couple of caps of ecstasy, for example, they get a warning, the drugs are confiscated and, the second time, they're diverted into a program," she said.
"With decriminalisation, it's still illegal to sell prohibited drugs like crystal methamphetamine. It's illegal to smoke it in public, to have it around children.
"The only thing is that for people who are using it, it's treated as a health issue instead."
The NSW report recommended increased resourcing for specialist drug assessment and treatment services in parallel with decriminalisation.
Cannabis possession has been decriminalised in South Australia for decades, while the possession of small amounts was also recently legalised in the ACT.
Drug consumption services
The Tasmanian Government last year banned the sale of ice pipes, but Ms Lai said there were concerns this would force people who use drugs to find other methods, including injecting the drug.
The NSW inquiry recommended providing supervised drug consumption services based on local need, including facilities providing "other routes of drug consumption" and to allow access to 16 to 18-year-olds for clinical assessment.
These drug consumption rooms would be integrated with services to address broader health and psychological needs.
Ms Lai said these policies could be adapted for Tasmania, factoring in the state's above average consumption of crystal methamphetamine and the provision of pipes via these consumption services.
"The reason they push for that particular harm reduction strategy is because if people can't find clean ice pipes, they will either make their own - which results in further health issues - or they might start injecting it," she said.
"There are a whole lot of strategies we could look at in this space."
The NSW Government has been staunchly opposed to pill testing, but the inquiry recommended a statewide clinically supervised substance testing, education and information service.
The service would provide illicit drug market monitoring to inform public health and police, along with health interventions and consumer education.
There was also a recommendation for it to be an outreach service, including pill testing.
Ms Lai said this proposal would have benefits for Tasmania.
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"For example, there could be a fixed health service site in somewhere like Devonport, where people could turn up at any time of the week and have a substance tested," she said.
"It would then have outreach services at music festivals.
"When we think about what could be happening here in Tasmania, there's no reason why pill testing couldn't be trialled at festivals in the North and the South."
While the Tasmanian Government and opposition appear to have little appetite for serious drug reform, Ms Lai said attitudes in the community were changing.
"I spoke to many people last year and community groups, and they are all saying 'yes, drugs are an issue, we need to decriminalise it, it's a health issue'," she said.
"We get frustrated because we're saying, look, 5500 Tasmanian have tried ecstasy in the last 12 months, 5800 may have tried methamphetamine. If we're talking about simple strategies to ensure they don't harm themselves, and also provide treatment and education to assist them off these drugs, then why can't we do it?
"You need courageous leadership in this space. You need leaders in our community and the government to look beyond their political concerns. It frustrates the community when politicians are only worried about avoiding political risk."
In Tasmania, alcohol remains the leading cause of substance use problems.
Drug reform agenda ahead
The Tasmanian Government is in the final stages of developing its drug reform agenda for the alcohol and drug sector.
Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Jeremy Rockliff said the plan would be released in the coming months.
When asked whether the government was following expert advice on drug reform, he said it was.
"The Tasmanian Government has a wide range of harm minimisation policies in the alcohol, tobacco and other drugs sector," Mr Rockliff said.
"All of these policies are fully supported by the Department of Health and medical experts."