By Andrew Starke

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) has welcomed a Government acknowledgement that NSW in the grip of a cocaine epidemic.

AHA (NSW) chief executive officer, Sally Fielke, said it was no surprise to the industry body that there had been a 55.5 percent increase in cocaine possession over the past two years.

“We've been warning for some time about the dangers of a marked increase in the use of illicit drugs and their role in anti-social behaviour,” she said.

“Hoteliers have become increasingly frustrated that they are being unfairly blamed as the sole reason for this anti-social behaviour.”

This has lead to increasingly desperate measure being imposed by publicans including the use of sniffer dogs in venues.

Fielke added that the strictest Responsible Service of Alcohol initiatives in the world were futile when drugs are part of the equation.

“We welcome every spotlight that can be shone on this problem,” she said. “But we also need to see it backed up by some real solutions.”

The latest data by the NSW Government’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) reveals there has been a 55.5 per cent increase in cocaine possession from April 2008 to March this year.

"The market for cocaine is growing at an exponential rate, and if the price of the drug is staying the same, then this is the sign of a thriving market,” said BOCSAR bureau director, Don Weatherburn.

“It is safe to say we are in a cocaine epidemic.”

This same data also found the possession and/or use of narcotics up 21 percent, ecstasy up 19.2 percent and other drugs were up 28.6 percent.

Fielke said it was time to widen the debate on anti-social behaviour to take in the role of drugs.

“This is a much bigger issue than simply blaming the local pub. Naïve and single minded suggestions to just close pubs down will not achieve anything,” she said.

“'The long-term solution rests with gaining evidence on all the issues involved to tailor solutions accordingly, with individuals taking responsibility for their own actions, and with education aimed at securing genuine cultural change.

“We are keen to work with the police and Government to establish the link between illicit drugs and anti-social behaviour.”

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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