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Police vow to crack dope use

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Police Commissioner Paul White is planning to target drug use in the Territory on a similar level to drink driving.


Mr White said yesterday he wanted Territorians to develop the same intolerance to dope as they have for drink driving.


Mr White told the Northern Territory News that he believed the Territory had a real and dangerous fascination with drugs.


``I think it's a concern for the Territory _ I said it from the day that I arrived and you hear all the excuses in the world as to why we shouldn't be putting the focus on illict drugs but the reality is the Northern Territory drug usage rate is higher than anywhere else in Australia,'' he said.


The 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed the recent use of any illict drug in the NT was about 30 per cent _ compared to an Australian average of 17 per cent.


The survey showed 25 per cent of people in the Territory had used cannabis in the past 12 months _ the national level is about 13 per cent.


Recent cannabis use among 14 to 24-year-olds in the Territory is 37 per cent, almost 10 per cent above the national average of 28 per cent.


Mr White claimed some recent victories in the drug war, including last month's declaration of the first drug house at Alice Springs.


But he said that to be really successful, the crackdown on drugs needed to begin at the community level.


``I'd like to see the tolerance to illict drugs reduced in the same way that the community's tolerance to drink-driving had been reduced. If you go back to the 1970s the number of alcohol-related casualty collisions were sky high. It's now down to about 50 a year,'' Mr White said.


``The community's culture actually changed in relation to drink-driving through enforcement, education and engineering.''


Mr White said he believed that as people became more aware of the damaging effects of the powerful new hydroponically-grown cannabis, said to be 15 times stronger than that available in the 1960s, and the increasing usage of amphetamines, attitudes towards drugs would change.


And he said while he was not suggesting cannabis use led to use of other drugs, police were finding a high percentage of drug users were using multiple combinations of drugs at once.


``You need to be careful that you don't take the line that cannabis is a single drug used. I'm not saying cannabis leads to other drug use but what I'm saying is the evidence tends to show us that many drug users don't confine themselves to one type of drug use,'' Mr White said.


Northern Territory News

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