I also rise to speak in support of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment Bill 2012 and to reiterate that the opposition will not be opposing the bill. We will not oppose it, because we believe it is a step in the right direction to protect Victorians from opportunistic people using their knowledge to avoid the law whilst cultivating and trafficking harmful substances that mimic illicit drugs.
Innovation in a variety of fields is quite rightly normally seen as a positive — something that serves the common good — but the innovative measures that are being undertaken in the manufacture of synthetic drugs do not serve the common good at all. Synthetic stimulants and cannabinoids are the new frontiers in substance abuse, manufactured in the community by those who choose to primarily profit from the young and vulnerable. The health impact on users cannot be underestimated.
Industrial chemicals that make solvents and such things as superglue are ingredients in so-called new drugs, which often lead users to have seizures and also cause death. The bill deals with synthetic substances that mimic GHB, which is utilised in date rape.
What does the bill do? It essentially adds five synthetic substances to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, which lists drugs of dependence in both pure and mixed forms. The drugs include 4-MMC, which is commonly known as meow meow, BZP and MDPV, as well as the industrial chemicals that Mr Drum has outlined, 1,4-BD and GBL. There are eight further synthetic cannabinoids which are presently listed in regulations as illicit drugs, but those regulations will expire in November of this year, and this bill aims to extend the prohibitions on the same terms.
The effects of the different types of drugs contained in the bill are significant. In relation to 4-MMC, it is termed as a party drug that mimics cocaine, ecstasy and MDMA, which are drugs that are already on the prohibited list. The side effects of these drugs include: dilated pupils, poor concentration, teeth grinding, problems in focusing properly, poor short-term memory, hallucinations, delusions, erratic behaviour, changes in body temperature, increased heart rate, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite, increased sweating, discolouration of extremities, anxiety, paranoia and depression. Clearly there are significant health impacts for people from those drugs.
BZP and MDPV imitate stimulant effects similar to those achieved from amphetamines. Adverse effects have been reported, including acute psychosis, renal toxicity and seizures. GBL and 1,4-BD mimic GHB, which as I understand is a naturally occurring substance found in the human central nervous system. It was previously used to treat conditions such as insomnia, clinical depression and alcoholism. GHB has been used as a date rape drug as well. This drug, along with any other drugs that mimic its side effects, must be prohibited.
Whilst the Labor opposition and the Victorian community are generally supportive of this measure, it is fair to say that there is serious concern in the community in terms of the substantial increase in drug usage. In 2011-12 there has been a 22.8 per cent increase in drug use. This is the largest increase in the state in more than a decade. Offences of possession and drug usage increased by 27.3 per cent, cocaine possession increased by 67.9 per cent, amphetamine-like stimulant possession increased by 64 per cent, and the cultivating, manufacturing and trafficking of drugs increased by 11.3 per cent.
Whilst this bill is a step in the right direction, these are particularly alarming figures, to say the least, and the Victorian community deserves an explanation from a government that ran a campaign based on law and order.
In summing up, we must be ahead of the game. The battle in relation to drugs is a continuing one that intensifies on a daily basis. The bill is an attempt to shut down an area where people can dodge the laws, their aim being to cultivate and traffic substances that mimic illicit drugs. This bill will assist in doing that, but alone will not turn around the drug crime rate in this state. The government needs to provide greater resources to Victoria Police and include resources that enable its members to measure the usage of various drugs and the negative impacts they are having on our communities so that we are armed with much more information to assist in the complex and deepening war with drugs. The government’s decision to significantly cut funding to the police and emergency services area will prove to be a blight on its record.
Whilst the opposition supports the bill, it registers its strong concern about the significant rise in drug cultivation, trafficking, possession and usage in this state.