Webcast - Drug Reform


This is a pre-recorded webinar, Registrants will be emailed a unique link 24hrs after registering


Including GST (1.5% surcharge applies for credit card payments)

Member: Free
Non Member: Free


If you have any questions regarding this webinar, email events@lawyersalliance.com.au



Registrations Open: 20th Dec 23 5:15 AM

Registrations Close: 6th Mar 25 5:00 PM

Places Available: 99

Webcast - Drug Reform


The ALA held this webinar on Drug Reform on hosted by Chair of the ALA Criminal Justice SIG, Greg Barns SC. The ALA has also released an updated Drug Policy Position Paper titled, “'A Time for Change' - Drug Policy Reform through a Social Development Lens” which can be read here.

In this webinar, Dr Alex Wodak used empirical data to demonstrate how drug policy is a health and social issue, not primarily a criminal issue. He spoke about why supply systems must be largely regulated whereas there must be reliance on health and social interventions for drug possession.

NSW Legislative Council member, Susan Higginson outlined the policy path towards sensible law reform. For example, Senator Shoebridge’s Legalising Cannabis Bill 2023, to which the ALA made a submission, provides a vision for economic and social benefits, as well as what a genuine market looks like. Ms Higginson observed that 11.6% of Australians are using cannabis recreationally while 46% have used it at least once.

Ms Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS shared the overt correlation between the over-policing of First Nations peoples for drug possession and the stigma of drug use. The harrowing case of Veronica Nelson illustrates how the care and treatment of First Nations peoples shows the stark link between the care and treatment of First Nations and the pervasive stigma of drug use. In Victoria, charges for possession by First Nations peoples increased by 80% between 2013 - 2022 compared to 17% for non-Indigenous people. Ms. Waight highlights the dire, escalating need to move away from retributive justice towards appropriate health, education, disability and mental health supports.

Professor Geoff Gallop explored the future of cannabis in Australia through three aspects of reform: Health and well-being, Freedom and Rights issues and Security issues. He proposed the idea of implementing reforms similar to Canada. He shared that Canada’s drug laws are highly influenced by their Charter of Human Rights. In a case where politicians sought to close harm reduction facilities, the court ruled that the people had a right to healthcare under the Charter. Professor Gallop posed the question of what our Charters at state and territory levels could mean for drug laws in Australian jurisdictions. For example, in South Africa, the court ruled that privacy rights under the Constitution meant that the people had a right to smoke cannabis in the privacy of their own homes without effecting others.

Dr Will Tregoning showed how drug laws and the way we think about them are based on history and racism. He explored the colonial foundations of a prohibitionist approach to drug policy dating back to the late 19th century. An Act passed by Archibald Meston (‘Southern Protector of Aboriginals for Queensland’) in 1897 for regulating opium use began the narrative of drug use as equating addiction and irresponsibility which we continue to see today. He says it has led even progressive reforms to correlating drug use with police arrests (particularly for First Nations peoples). He says real change will come when we commit to social justice, racial justice and self-determination – backed by investment in health and social services.

The ALA thanks all the speakers for their learned contributions.


Opening address
Greg Barns SC, ALA Criminal Justice SIG Chair

Drug law reform - a health and social issue, not primarily a criminal issue
Dr Alex Wodak AM, physician and former director of the Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's Hospital

Reframing the ‘War on drugs’ and community cultural shifts
Susan Higginson MLC, Greens NSW

The discriminatory impact of prohibition
Nerita Waight, CEO, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

The future of cannabis and steps towards legalisation in Australia
Emeritus Professor The Hon Dr Geoff Gallop AC, former WA Premier and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Social justice through drug law reform
Dr Will Tregoning, CEO, Unharm


Frequently asked questions


Including GST (1.5% surcharge applies for credit card payments)

Member: Free
Non Member: Free