Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jun 2005
Source: Saanich News (CN BC)
Author: Jim Hackler
Note: Hackler is a UVic sociologist and the the author of a "Canadian 
Criminology: a "Strategies and Perspectives.


Restricting the sales of materials used to manufacture crystal meth 
may not be the panacea politicians expect.

Those of us who are social scientists interested in social issues 
often face a dilemma. We are fairly good at describing what happened 
and in providing evidence when programs do not work. Unfortunately, 
we are not good at saying what should be done. It is also difficult 
to explain why things happen. Like medical research, it takes a long 
time and many experiments with control and comparison groups before 
we can identify those actions that actually help.

Naturally, it is difficult to not to favour restricting the sales of 
materials used to manufacture crystal meth. However, we have 
considerable knowledge about the consequences of prohibiting 
substances. In the days of alcohol prohibition, a number of towns in 
the U. S. were considering ending the ban on alcohol. The Women's 
Christian Temperance Union was one of the groups fighting to keep 
prohibition. Unbeknownst to the WCTU leaders, organized crime was 
funneling money into their campaign. Naturally, they wanted to see 
prohibition continue. Their income would be reduced considerably if 
they had to compete with legitimate liquor dealers.

I am not suggesting that organized crime is secretly campaigning for 
laws making it illegal to sell materials used to manufacture crystal meth.

However, it would be to their advantage if the police would crack 
down on the amateurs and leave the business to the more ruthless, the 
more sophisticated and better organized professional criminals.

In general, our efforts to reduce the supply of drugs have been 
ineffective. In Sept 2000 Canadian police seized 100 kg of heroin, 
one of the largest-ever seizures. Did it have an impact on injection 
users? The Vancouver Injection Study compared 30 day periods before 
and after the seizure. They found no meaningful change. The price of 
heroin went down, suggesting that other shipments easily compensated 
for the seizures.

If I were a politician, would I vote for measures to restrict the 
sales of materials to manufacture crystal meth? Of course! How can 
you not vote for motherhood? There are demands that something must be 
done. Emotionally, I want to support such a measure. That is my 
dilemma, because I am aware that it would be another invitation for 
organized criminals to expand their activity.

Jim Hackler

Hackler is a UVic sociologist and the the author of a "Canadian 
Criminology: a "Strategies and Perspectives.
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