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Fiona Patten's proposed drug law reform bill

11 March 2022

During debate on Fiona Patten's proposed drug law reform bill, Bernie Finn MP proposed the death penalty for drug dealers ("drug lords"):

"I would be very happy to administer [the death penalty] myself in fact if it came to that, because quite frankly [drug lords] disgust me in a way that is hard to put into words:

At First Step we wonder if Mr Finn would consider killing the CEOs of big tobacco, big pharma and alcohol companies whose products are responsible for far more deaths than all illicit drugs and vastly more burden of disease:

Does Mr Finn perhaps even drink alcohol? Does he or has he ever smoked tobacco? Would he now consider, himself, finding those people that sold these drugs to him (alcohol and nicotine) and ending their lives?

The point here is not to score points or poke obvious holes in radical arguments, but rather to point out what is going on here.

It's called stigma.

There is a stigma around the use of illicit drugs. In Mr Finn's case it is directly at 'drug lords', but it certainly spills over to drug users, particularly people who inject drugs.

First Step recently met with the director of a secure facility for children (funded and run in one of the states of Australia), basically a temporary psych ward for kids at great risk. Practically all the kids in this facility have mental health treatment needs and addiction treatment needs and many are the victims of sexual exploitation. And guess what percentage of the kids are in child protection/out-of-home-care? 100% One hundred percent! These are literally the most vulnerable people in Australia, overly representing indigenous kids, near universal history of childhood abuse, including sexual abuse. A good many of these kids will go on to sell drugs at some point. What would Mr Finn like to do with them at that point, young people some of whom have never known a mother's or father's love. Many of these kids, if they had not found in illicit drugs a reliable source of dopamine stimulus (ie. temporary happiness) would have taken their own lives and might still.

We will invite Mr Finn to visit First Step, to see a little of the other side. You gotta try.

#mentalhealth #lifewithaddiction #firststep #healthnotharm

Patrick Lawrence
Chief Executive Officer