REGULATION should replace prohibition in the fight to limit the harm caused by illicit drugs, according to the Criminal Law Committee of the NSW Bar Association.
A discussion paper released this week argued the current criminal system had failed and reform was needed.
Committee chairman Stephen Odgers said prohibition had been ineffective at lowering the availability and use of illegal drugs.
"Given the harm to individuals and society that results from prohibition, the time has come to give serious consideration to alternatives," he said.
"As lawyers we have a responsibility to speak out if we conclude that the law needs reform. That point has been reached.
"The Criminal Law Committee has concluded that the goals of drug policy should be to reduce levels of drug-related harm, treat drug addiction as a public health issue, increase the number of drug-dependent users seeking treatment and implement effective demand-reduction strategies.
"It is our preliminary view, which is subject to further research and consultation, that an effective measure that should be considered by legislators is to replace the black market for drugs with a form of legal availability under a highly regulated system."
Bar Association president Jane Needham said the views did not represent the views of the NSW Bar Council, which was yet to take a formal stance.
"However, the NSW Bar Council determined earlier this year that the release of the paper would foster an evidence-based debate on an issue of public importance which has touched the lives of many within the community," she said.
A conference will be held in May next year to debate the issues raised by the discussion paper.