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Former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery has blasted the state government for its “the lack of political will” in failing to reform drug policy, amid a stalled decision on diverting small quantity users.

In a wide-ranging conversation on LSJ’s Just Chat podcast, Cowdery reveals his views on the drug debate, euthanasia, his most memorable case and why you won’t see him bingeing the latest Netflix true crime series.

Cowdery was on the expert advisory panel for the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’, which made more than 100 recommendations including a model for decriminalising the personal use and possession of small amounts of prohibited drugs. 

A plan to divert such users into a warning system was deferred by NSW Cabinet late last year after the leaked proposal sparked immediate outrage that the government was being “soft”.

It is an argument that infuriates Cowdery. 

“I just fail to understand the lack of political will to address this issue in a meaningful way,” he said.

“There are politicians in other countries – similar communities to ours – who have seized this particular nettle. But our politicians … they seem to think if they adopt or pursue any kind of any relaxation of the so called ‘tough on crime’ approach to drugs they will be accused of being soft on crime and … that will reflect adversely electorally. They’ll lose votes and that’s what they’re worried about.”

“Never mind this idea that politicians are supposed to be our political leaders. The politicians we seem to have, particularly in this issue, are political followers.”

In retirement, Cowdery has been an advocate for a federal bill of rights, raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old, a federal integrity commission “that actually has bark and bite”, and voluntary assisted dying.

“Only the easy projects,” he jokes. “I am not a golfer so that rules out a good chunk of retirement life. I think it is really important for all of us when we finish a regular job to keep active physically and keep active mentally.”

As the state government prepares to debate a new bill on voluntary assisted dying this year, Cowdery recalled a euthanasia case that stayed with him from his tenure at the DPP and “what do you do when something like that happens?”

Listen to this episode and the entire Just Chat series at or search ‘Just Chat’ wherever you listen to podcasts.