Why drug law reform is important to us all

Film highlights from Uniting’s recent event with Dr Manuel Cardoso – the man who helped decriminalise drug use in Portugal – are now available to watch.

On a wet and wintery Tuesday night in Sydney, more than 700 people came to St Stephen’s Uniting Church. Amongst them were media, politicians and VIPs. A further 5,000 people tuned in to watch online.

The event marked the ‘soft launch’ of Uniting’s campaign to modernise drug laws across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

The headline speaker was Portuguese drug policy expert, Dr Manuel Cardoso.Will Tregoning from Unharm, Dr Manuel Cardoso, Emeritus Professor Geoff Gallop AC and Dr Marianne Jauncey from our Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.

Seventeen years ago, Portugal removed criminal sanctions for people found in possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. They began a concerted policy of viewing drug dependency as a health and social issue, rather than a criminal one.

Dr Cardoso was instrumental in the reform.

The results have been dramatic. Hundreds of lives have been saved and the number of drug-related overdose deaths has significantly decreased, directly reducing the burden on the criminal justice system and the related social costs. Many thought decriminalisation would lead to an increase in drug use. In fact, drug-related harm has gone down, as has use of nearly all illicit drugs.

Dr Cardoso was joined onstage by Dr Marianne Jauncey (Medical Director of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre), Prof Geoff Gallop (former Premier of Western Australia) and Will Tregoning (Executive Director of advocacy charity, Unharm).

Great drug policy saves lives

Dominic Streeter, Head of Advocacy Campaigns said, “Great drug policy saves lives. Criminalising people who are ill does nothing more than fill jails, ruin lives and waste money.

By prioritising treatment over punishment Portugal has reduced death rates, drug-related harms and the (tax payer funded) burden on the criminal justice system; proving that everybody wins from an approach that is evidence-based and compassionate.

Crucial gaps in treatment in New South Wales and the ACT have been identified and through the campaign Uniting will be lobbying for greater funding to help fill those gaps and improve the lives of the people we serve.”

Learn more about why drug reform is necessary

  1. Read the booklet on Portugal’s drug policy reforms
  2. Watch a summary of the event (02:45 seconds): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n_RPDuNY6c
  3. Watch the full recording, featuring a panel discussion by former Western Australian Premier, Emeritus Professor Geoff Gallop AC, and Dr Marianne Jauncey, Medical Director from Uniting’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5SCBxN0j2g

Ask questions

If you have any questions about the event or how Uniting is involved in drug reform, please contact: Kyle Cox or email: kcox@uniting.org.