Is banning synthetic drugs such a good idea?

How to read a CLD

State and federal governments are moving to ban the sale of synthetic drugs, currently being sold illegally through tobacconists and adult shops. The consequence of such bans demonstrates the difficulty of making current legislation work. While all evidence suggests that the “war on drugs” has been lost, governments do little to rectify the situation.

Sales of synthetic drugs, if properly controlled, provide an opportunity for some level of regulation of their use. Sales through legal outlets allow the government the opportunity to monitor the users and encourage them into rehabilitation programs. If there is a switch between the synthetic and the organic then this may lead to an overall decline in the use of illegal drugs.

The dynamics can be shown in a Causal Loop Diagram.

The other advantage of the legal sale of synthetic drugs is that these sales will generate tax revenue through tax on company profits, GST and the taxes paid by individuals who sell them. This revenue can be used to fund the rehabilitation programs.

However, bans on synthetic drugs have a number of consequences. The first is that they will cut down the sales of synthetic drugs. The second is that they will increase the cost of monitoring and policing these bans. This in turn will reduce revenue available for rehabilitation programs but will also shift buyers back to illegal drugs and the crime associated with their sale.

While it might appear counterintuitive and certainly run contrary to the public sentiment following the death of the Sydney teenager, the availability and legal control of synthetic may present governments with an opportunity to address the problems of drug use in Australian society.