Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jun 2004
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Esquimalt News
Author: Mark Browne
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Whichever political party wins the federal election will have to
invariably deal with the problem of illicit drug use.

Federal candidates running in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca were willing to
share their views on what they think should be done to address the
ongoing problem of illegal drug use and whether possession of drugs
like marijuana, heroin and cocaine should be illegal in the first place.

"I believe in treatment rather than law enforcement," NDP candidate
Randall Garrison says adamantly.

A former member of the Esquimalt police board, he says there are
better ways to use law enforcement resources than busting addicts for
drug possession.

Since the current criminal model clearly isn't working as a means of
tackling drug use, Garrison argues more money needs to be spent on
drug and alcohol treatment programs. As it currently stands, he says
there is a "severe" shortage of treatment facilities on Vancouver
Island. Telling addicts that they'll have to wait several months to
receive treatment because of a shortage of facilities is "madness",
Garrison says.

"There's a severe shortage of treatment beds, both for alcohol and
drugs - and I put them in the same category," he says.

The criminal model, Garrison says, is only making organized crime
groups that make money of illicit drugs rich.

"It enriches the wrong people and gives them more resources to make
the problem worse in the future," he says.

As for marijuana, it should be eventually legalized with
decriminalization as a first step, says Garrison.

The criminal model is an effective way to go after those who make huge
profits from the drug trade, says Conservative candidate John Koury.

"The war on drugs, from my perspective, should target the purveyors of
drugs - the ones who traffic drugs, the ones who bring it into the
country," he says.

Providing more money for police to develop resources to take on the
traffickers is what's needed, Koury says.

"We need the resources. We need to have the investment in law
enforcement," he says.

On the issue of drug addiction, medical treatment is the most suitable
option, Koury says.

"We need to provide for them with the best available treatment
possible through our medical system and our social services," he says.

A national drug strategy probably isn't the answer as the best
solutions will likely be found at the provincial and community levels,
Koury says.

But Koury doesn't count out the role the courts can play when it comes
to dealing with addicts charged with being in possession of drugs such
as heroin and cocaine. Judges, he says, are in a position to decide if
treatment is the best solution for someone who was caught with illegal
drugs in his or her possession. While Koury personally supports the
decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, he doesn't think
outright legalization is the answer at this stage.

"I don't think Canadians are ready for that," he says.

The criminal model is definitely not the approach that Liberal
candidate and incumbent MP Keith Martin thinks should be employed
against people found to be in possession of hard drugs.

"People who have substance abuse problems have a medical problem - not
a criminal problem," says Martin, a trained physician.

Prevention is the key to tackling drug abuse, he says. The Headstart
Program, which teaches parents good parenting skills in as number of
areas including nutrition and discipline, is what Ottawa needs to
adopt, Martin says.

Treatment, ranging from detox programs to counselling and employment
training, is another approach that is an effective way of addressing
drug addiction. Such programs, says Martin, should take place far away
from any drug activity so the addict has a better chance of achieving

"You have to get the person out of the drug environment for a
prolonged period of time and that's been proven to work," he says.

The judicial system needs to have the power to go after the drug
traffickers and confiscate the proceeds of their crimes, Martin argues.

But someone who gets caught by police with small amounts of hard drugs
should not be dealt with as criminals, he says.

Martin had been pushing for marijuana decriminalization for years
before former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's government introduced
some legislation to that effect last year (the legislation has yet to
be adopted). If Martin had his way, he says minor possession of hard
drugs would also be decriminalized.

"Clearly prohibition doesn't work. Prohibition enriches the pockets of
organized crime gangs and causes increases in disease, increases in
use, increases in criminal activity - it's a losing proposition,"
Martin says.

As far as Green Party candidate Jane Sterk and her party are
concerned, the criminal model should be scrapped and a Four Pillars
model should be implemented to address the problem of drug addiction.
The Four Pillars model, used in various jurisdictions around the
world, focuses treatment, harm reduction and prevention.

"We're not in favour of criminalizing more and more behaviours. We
believe that, as a society, need to look at how can we move toward a
prevention and health promotion model . . . and get out of the 'bad
guy, they ought to be punished' mentality," Sterk says.

Criminal elements are the only ones who benefit from the current
approach to tackling drug abuse, she says.

The Green Party, says Sterk, is crystal clear on its policy on
marijuana possession.

"We would legalize marijuana - not decriminalize," she says.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin