Pubdate: Tue, 19 Aug 2008
Source: Prince George Free Press (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 BC Newspaper Group
Author: Galt Wilson



Columnist Victor Bowman (Tackling the drug trade, Free Press August
15) has the right diagnosis:

"The drug trade is the cause of much of the crime in the city. An
addict. will steal from their families, break into houses, sell their
bodies or do whatever they have to, to get their drugs."

Unfortunately his prescription ("The laws must be changed and be more
punitive.") has been tried. In a free and democratic society, it just
doesn't seem to work. The United States and Canada are not Singapore
or Saudi Arabia and never will be. There is no law enforcement-based
solution to drug-induced crime here.

It's a reality of market capitalism. Consumer demand as powerful as
Mr. Bowman describes will inevitably be satisfied. Incarcerate all the
dealers today and they'll be quickly replaced. Lock up addicts, and
they'll be right back using when they get out.

Cigarette smoking causes more illness and premature death than all the
illegal drugs combined. But banning tobacco hasn't been necessary (and
wouldn't work anyway). A combination of regulation, taxation, and
public health initiatives has been very effective.

Decriminalizing and regulating addictive drugs would immediately
reduce crime. And it would remove the profit motive to recruit new
addicts. Would making drugs more readily available create more
addicts? We don't know. Research evidence is limited and mixed - many
people who experiment with drugs don't become addicted. But there are,
admittedly, more cigarette smokers and alcoholics than cocaine users
presently. The prevalence of infectious diseases like hepatitis and
AIDS amongst addicts and their sexual partners would be dramatically
reduced. Addicts would retain their health, to potentially benefit
from treatment in due course.

Drugs are evil, but a war on drugs will not be won. New approaches are
overdue. The political reality is that Canada is not free to
experiment unilaterally. We rely on trade with our neighbour to the
south for our prosperity. Shifting opinion in both our countries will
take a generation - it needed 40 years of determined effort to turn
the tide on cigarette smoking. I don't anticipate seeing it in my
lifetime, but change will come. Best to start soon.

Galt Wilson

Prince George
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