Legal threshold quantities for drug trafficking are used most Australian jurisdictions to define the quantity over which possession of an illicit drug is deemed “trafficking” versus “personal use” (Hughes, 2011). Forthcoming research (Hughes, Ritter, Cowdery, & Phillips, in press) evaluated trafficable threshold quantities across six Australian states and led to the conclusion that some threshold quantities may need to be elevated as existing trafficable thresholds place particular groups of users at risk of unjustified sanction. Discussions with policy makers have highlighted concerns that any reform may lead to adverse effects. There has been no research on this topic to date. This research thus seeks to address a potential policy concern by conducting focus groups with people who inject drugs (and people who both inject drugs and deal) in the two states that were found most in need of reform (NSW and SA) in order to explore their perceptions of existing laws and anticipated effects (if any) of reforming threshold quantities.
The specific objectives of this project are to explore:
- Attitudes towards existing threshold limits in NSW and SA amongst two populations who inject drugs (people who inject drugs and people who both inject drugs and deal). This will explore perceptions of the benefits, costs and impacts of thresholds (e.g. on use, purchasing and dealing behaviour)
- Perceptions of likely effects if threshold quantities were modified in NSW and South Australia, including impacts (if any) on use, purchasing and dealing behaviour
- Differences (if any) in anticipated effects by state (NSW vs SA) and population (people who inject drugs and people who both inject drugs and deal)
Focus groups will be conducted with people who inject drugs in each of the target states: NSW and SA. For each state two to three focus groups will be conducted: including one or two with people who inject drugs and one with people who both inject drugs and deal in each state (recruitment permitting).
Focus groups will take place at the end of 2013/ early 2014.
This research will provide the first evidence-informed knowledge about the likely effects of reforming current thresholds. If our hypotheses are supported, this should negate or mitigate a feared outcome from reform. As such, this project affords the unique opportunity to feed into the policy processes surrounding drug trafficking thresholds and increase the likelihood of evidence-informed policy translation.