It was the bold idea that began in the ACT Legislative Assembly, rattled the prime minister of the day, and raised the hackles of one of the world's most powerful media moguls.
And almost 20 years since Prime Minister John Howard scuttled a scientific trial into the effectiveness of providing prescription heroin to addicts, former ACT independent MLA Michael Moore believes its time to start the conversation about it again.
Mr Moore was the chair of an ACT parliamentary committee on HIV, illegal drugs and prostitution, which recommended a study into whether providing heroin by prescription to dependent users could improve their health and reduce crime in the community.
The trial required the federal government to approve the manufacture of or import of the drug.
After six years' of work with the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, the ACT scored a key victory when the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy approved it.
But less than a month later, and after a brutal campaign waged by the nations's shock jocks and conservative newspapers, Mr Howard pulled the pin on the study on August 19, 1997.
"He came out after a cabinet meeting and said I'm a father, I'm not going to be involved in any legalisation of drugs," Mr Moore said.
"It was an emotional response, he had been under two weeks of intense pressure, particularly from the shock jocks and from the tabloid newspapers including the Daily Telegraph.
"They ran, for example, pictures of the ministers who had made the decision to proceed with this and had identified them with the headline 'drug pushers in suits'."
A cartoon lampooned federal health minister Michael Wooldridge as a nurse in an ice cream van labelled Mr Trippy, handing out free syringes of heroin and Piers Ackerman called Canberra 'Smack City'.
Rupert Murdoch even flew into Australia, keen to ensure this "nonsense would stop", Mr Moore said.
The American ambassador at the time also weighed in, the strict prohibitionist inviting Mr Moore to the embassy in an attempt to persuade the ACT government not to proceed with it.
Now chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia and president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, Mr Moore said he learnt hard lessons which have informed his later advocacy work.
"We should have been ready for the backlash," Mr Moore said.
"Whether it's tobacco, e-cigarettes, heroin, we do know that we made powerful enemies however that is part and parcel of doing advocacy work."
But with heroin use on the rise again across Australia, Mr Moore believes it is time to reconsider opening an injecting room in Canberra.
Mr Moore, alongside Kings Cross injecting room medical director Dr Marianne Jauncey and social scientist and policy analyst David McDonald, will explore prescription heroin as an option in treating addiction in the Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis' upcoming Canberra Conversations seminar on July 27.
There is still legislation on the books to allow an injecting room in Canberra, Mr Moore said, and its operating model could be based on that of Switzerland.
There, an approved medical practitioner writes a prescription for each user, then a nurse loads a syringe with the dose and gives it to a user in a supervised injecting room.
Mr Moore said the Swiss' regulation of the heroin meant people were no longer consumed by getting their next fix.
It helped to lessen the destructiveness of the drug and eventually let people rebuild their lives.
And after two decades to prepare, he is ready for another fight.
"[Prohibitionists say] our problem is we haven't fought the drug war hard enough but the irony is every time we increase the pressure, make the penalties harder the price goes up and more people get involved so it goes into a vicious circle," Mr Moore said.
"That being said I suppose we've never tried doing it the way they've done it in the Philippines, which is resulting in judicial killings but I think in our society that would be a penalty no one, even those who oppose the issue, would ever recommend."
Heroin Prescription: The Need for Rational Policy, the latest free public seminar in the Canberra Conversations series, is on Thursday, July 27 from 12.30pm-1.30pm at the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre function room, 180 London Circuit, Civic.
Register your attendance through Eventbrite.
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