We were assured by Bob Carr that the use of drug sniffer dogs on public transport and in pubs and clubs in certain Sydney suburbs was intended specifically to target heroin dealers. A NSW Ombudsman’s report into the record of sniffer dogs says that’s not quite how the woofers are working:
THE drug sniffer dog program is an expensive waste of money that fails to catch serious drug dealers but manages to embarrass thousands doing nothing wrong, a NSW Ombudsman investigation has found.
The Government believes the dogs interrupt the supply of illegal drugs, but the two-year investigation found they stop three times as many people who are not carrying drugs as those who are.
During the study, 10,211 people were stopped at train stations, in pubs and on streets – but only a quarter of those searched were carrying illegal drugs.
Almost all of those were carrying cannabis, and mostly in small amounts, with cocaine and heroin discovered on fewer occasions than prescription drugs.
The Drug Detection Dog Unit cost $870,000 in 2002-03, but over the study period, just 19 people were convicted for supplying drugs. Most of those were carrying drugs for their friends rather than for sale, the report found, with only three sentenced to periodic detention.
The Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, made 55 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the program, but questioned the worth of keeping the enabling laws at all.
“Despite the best efforts of police, the evidence suggests that there is little value in trying to identify drug dealers by screening people with drug detection dogs in public places,” he said.
Opponents of the sniffer dog legislation point out that the dogs increase harm to users, prompting them to consume all their drugs at one time so the drugs are no longer able to be found by dogs.
Users were also targeted in Victoria’s ‘ice pipe’ ban, in a way that will specifically increase harm to users.
Another piece of bad drugs policy, again drafted to target users, not dealers, deigns to ban bongs. However, this may be simply an ambit log in another pursuit regarding publishing the ingredients used by tobacco companies in cigarettes. How these issues are related at all seems highly specious.
While Pyney is tilting at the bong windmill, he must also be encouraged to ban small plastic bottles, duct tape and garden hose. If bongs are banned, users will jerry-rig their own out of materials that can generate harmful gases if exposed to heat or flame.
I keep saying it, but no-one in Canberra listens; drug prohibition doesn’t work. Prohibiting the implements of drug use is equally as fruitless at stopping drug use- but almost always increases harm to users. This is not government which benefits those who elect the governors.
Next thing you know, Pyney will be banning clean syringes and driving the HIV infection rates through the roof.
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