A report released today found that Australians use more ecstasy than anyone else in the world (“Australia leads world in ecstasy use”, ABC). This is despite the finding that seizures of illegal drugs have gone up significantly in recent years — the recent seizure of more than a tonne of ecstasy tabs in Melbourne will ensure that this year is an even bigger bumper year for the drug cops.
Hardly a day goes by in this country without the TV news featuring images of the latest bust of some scarily large quantity of illicit drugs, and of course the recent trial of Schapelle Corby and arrest of nine other Australians in Indonesia have had blanket coverage.
What is clear is that, no matter how successful the authorities are in stopping drug shipments and arresting the perpetrators, the simple fact of supply and demand means there’ll always be someone else who’ll try to beat the system, quite likely on the very next plane or boat. The demand for drugs is strong enough in Australia and in most countries that the potential profits will always outweigh the costs.
And, of course, the people arrested are almost never the Mr Bigs of the drug underworld, but foolish, desperate and — in the eyes of their masters — expendable — couriers. The stories that are trickling out from the nine Australians arrested in Bali this week show just how callous and predatory this business is.
Whether Corby or the other Australians are guilty of the crimes they are accused of, they are the unfortunate victims of becoming caught up in a enormous, powerful and sophisticated business which is driven by huge demand for products which are obscenely profitable. Prices and profits are driven up by the regime of prohibition and, for the people at the top of the food chain, the risk of conviction is virtually zero.
The last thing the drug barons want is decriminalisation: it would bugger their business model.
A day will come when Australia and other countries finally face the reality that they are fighting a losing battle, and perhaps then we’ll see some enlightened policy in this area. In the meantime, the Schapelle Corbys of this world will continue to suffer.