Graduate Research School Available Projects Human Rights, Cultural Heritage, and Drug Law Reform in Comparative Perspective

Human Rights, Cultural Heritage, and Drug Law Reform in Comparative Perspective

Title of Project

Human Rights, Cultural Heritage, and Drug Law Reform in Comparative Perspective


Dr Robin Rodd, Prof Rosita Henry

College or Research Centre

College of Medicine & Dentistry

Summary of Project

In line with decriminalization projects occurring in several countries, recent surveys indicate that popular opinion in Australia favors the decriminalization of some drugs. However, Australian drug law reform lags behind both international trends and popular opinion. One of the pathways for drug law reform involves legalizing drugs for ‘sacramental use’ in the context of religious or other cultural practices. Each of these cases relates to specific constitutional settings that outline the bounds of human rights and religious freedom, and local cultural heritage. Australia’s Therapeutic Drugs Administration (TGA) is currently reviewing a proposal to legalise the consumption of 5-NNDMT, currently a schedule 9 substance (the highest classification of prohibited substance in Australia) for use in the context of neo-shamanic ayahuasca ceremonies. Ayahuasca has been legalized as a sacrament for use in Brazilian churches in several countries, including Brazil and the United States, and there is a long history of other substances being legalized for religious purposes (e.g. peyote and the Native American Church). More recently, the Mexican Supreme Court has moved to legalize marijuana for personal use, arguing that criminalizing marijuana amounts to a denial of an individual's right to the free development of their personality. This project asks would any of the successful (or unsuccessful) cultural heritage or human rights based attempts to legalize drug use elsewhere be viable strategies for drug law reform in Australia? The project would contribute to the anthropology of cultural heritage, law, human rights and religion, and involve comparative research of specific case studies, policy analysis and field research. This project aims to contribute to current efforts to make drug policy evidence based and more humane.

Key Words

drug policy; anthropology; religion; decriminalisation; cultural heritage; human rights

Would suit an applicant who

have a liberal arts or social science honours or master’s degree, preferably with a background in anthropology, sociology, politics, criminology, or critical human rights or heritage studies.

Updated: 08 Apr 2020