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Australia's drug shame revealed October 2, 2005 - news.com.au
AUSTRALIA is suffering an acute drug problem, according to an international report which found that the country has one of the highest rates of ecstasy and amphetamine abuse in the world.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration report, obtained under Freedom of Information, paints a grim picture of illegal drug use in Australia.
The report found that criminals are cultivating 5000ha of marijuana crops each year - an area equivalent to more than 2500 Sydney Cricket Grounds - and there are more than 200,000 heroin users in Australia.
The extent of Australia's cannabis cultivation and dependency on illegal substances is revealed in a new US intelligence report which has been obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.
The report also found that ecstasy manufacturers are using oil from the sassafras plant to make the drug, with increased seizure of the oil by customs and police officers.
Cocaine is currently being smuggled into Australia on flights from South America and cocaine importation is set to rise.
It states that inconsistent state laws on precursor chemicals is hindering the fight against drug makers.
The DEA Drug Situation Report for Australia says marijuana is Australia's "most popular and most abused illicit drug" and names NSW and Queensland as "the primary growing areas for outdoor cultivation", with South Australia, Victoria and the ACT also having outdoor plantations.
The report says that methamphetamine manufacturing in Australia is dominated by outlaw motorcycle gangs, with Queensland, NSW and South Australia being the primary production states.
And the report, compiled by the US Government's key drug-fighting agency, warns drug manufacturers in Australia are using a naturally occurring oil to make ecstasy.
It says that among the ingredients being used to make the drugs is oil from the sassafras plant.
"Australian law enforcement and customs officials are seizing increasing amounts of sassafras oil being smuggled through various ports of entry, such as Sydney and Melbourne. Sassafras oil produces
safrole, which can be used as a precursor chemical in the manufacture of MDMA (ecstasy)," the report says.
The report, compiled in July, 2005 says the majority of cocaine is being smuggled into Australia "by couriers on flights originating in South America" and, once in Australia, cars and Parcel Post are used to distribute the drugs around the country.
"As trade links with South America and immigration to Australia increase, the opportunities for cocaine traffickers also increase," the report says.
"As the number of direct commercial airline flights between Australia and South America increase, so does the opportunity for courier smuggling."
South-east Asia is cited as the major source of heroin in Australia, with Sydney being the main point of entry through airports and shipping containers.
The report is based on intelligence gathered by the DEA in Canberra in liaison with local authorities and will be used by the DEA in the global fight against drug trafficking.
Australia's lack of uniform drug laws also attracts criticism in the DEA report.