Drug law reformer takes his cause to the Vatican

Dr Alex Wodak (Harm Reduction Australia)

Australian doctor Alex Wodak was invited to speak at a Vatican conference last week about ‘the failure’ of the war on drugs. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.

In selecting Dr Wodak, the former director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, to speak at the Vatican’s "Drugs and Addictions" conference on December 1, Catholic Health Australia chief Suzanne Greenwood said she was aware the Drug Law Reform Foundation president’s opinions might not be equally held by the global headquarters of the Church.

“I knew his point of view is not exactly the point of view that’s been put out by the Church internationally,” Ms Greenwood said.

“I’m quite sure there would’ve been a few people in the audience saying, ‘I don’t agree with that’.”

The conference, which included representatives from the World Federation Against Drugs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, heard about, among other things, the dangers of legalising cannabis use, according to the Vatican. It also covered addictions relating to gambling and pornography.

Dr Wodak used his platform to call for the regulation of drug markets, the scrapping of criminal penalties for the possession of currently illicit substances and to treat drug use as a health issue.

“Sometimes policy intended to reduce harm causes even more harm than the drugs themselves,” Dr Wodak said during his 10-minute speech.

“The time has come when the abject failure of global drug prohibition can no longer be denied. Many will regard this package of reforms as unachievable ... but I suggest that in retrospect many will see these reforms were inevitable.”

Ms Greenwood said she agreed with Dr Wodak that the war on drugs was lost.

“The level of drug use in Australia is through the roof,” she said. “It’s a health issue more than it’s a criminal issue and we need to be dealing with it as such.

“I think it was very good to get some what might be challenging viewpoints put forward.”


‘We’re not this crazy church’: Vatican audience for drug reformist (Sydney Morning Herald)


Pope calls for solidarity and nearness to victims of addiction (Vatican News)

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