Cannabis, dope, ganja, weed. It’s Australia’s most commonly used illicit drug. Some people have a bad reaction to being stoned – it can make them lethargic, confused. They may be prone to doing nothing when they should be doing something. They can get paranoid, distanced from reality, unmotivated.
When it comes to drugs policy, the government is acting as though it is stoned. It finds it easier to sit on the couch with the TV tuned to the same old station than it would be to take a breath of fresh air and face the real world. The world where their drugs policy is failing; has failed.
They have some reason to be paranoid; the fear mongers are out in force when it comes to drugs. They paint any relaxation in the laws as a step on the road to ruin, the beginning of an unstoppable slide into a dystopia where heroin is on supermarket shelves and the youth are sucked into storms of drug-induced psychosis. They’ve been watching too many Cheech and Chong films.
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A 21st birthday, with a house full of family and grandparents. The birthday girl and all her friends come from middle class families who are supportive and loving. They all attended good schools, work casually, go to uni and have active social lives.
It sounds like a scene of suburban tranquillity, so why is the only thing going through my head is: am I only the person who’s noticed that the birthday girl and many of the friends are completely wasted on drugs?
Talking to the mum and another girl, all I can think is ‘how can she not notice? She has to know. Is she too embarrassed to say something?’
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The Daily Telegraph ran the story today as its Monday lead, “Drug lords hit town – cartels get rich on Aussie hunger for cocaine”.
A “generational shift” the paper explained, has pushed the demand for the drug making Australia the world’s most lucrative coke market.
While this was surely a shock for the few Sydneysiders who haven’t stepped out to a bar, club, trendy restaurant or party in the past few years, for the rest of us, the story was more a case of no shit Sherlock than shock. Because, if you live in Sydney and are under the age of 55, chances are you will run into the drug every day if you knew what you were looking for.
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Nothing illustrates the resilience and resourcefulness of organised crime than the story of a Sydney cocaine dealer known to police as ‘Aunty’. She is a Colombian woman in her fifties who came to Australia with her family in the 1970s. She is the face of a syndicate that has been operating for almost two decades.
Her husband stays in the background but has the necessary power and influence with Colombian cocaine barons. The syndicate imports around a tonne of cocaine every eighteen months. It is estimated to have carried out at least ten and possibly as many as fourteen importations (totalling between 10 and 14 tonnes of the drug). The cocaine is sold in bulk, primarily to networks in Sydney, but it also makes its way to other state capitals.
The retirement of some distributors and the arrest and jailing of others enabled an eastern suburbs professional surfer and dealer Shane Hatfield to progress up the drug chain. By the early 2000s he was dealing directly with Aunty. One of Hatfield’s distributors was a criminal in his mid twenties who has been given the pseudonym ‘Tom’ by law-enforcement authorities.
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