Pubdate: Tue, 04 Aug 2009
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2009 Winnipeg Free Press


So it may be that the St. James businessman who snorts a little 
cocaine, the South St. Vital housewife who smokes a little weed, the 
Broadway boulavardier who likes his uppers or downers are responsible 
for the drug trade because they are the market.

But as we know, and as history shows us, if that supposition is not 
entirely preposterous, it is mostly preposterous. Crime, like nature, 
abhors a vacuum, and it naturally fills one when it occurs. 
Prohibition attempted to destroy the market for alcoholic beverages; 
instead it simply created the organized crime syndicates that plague 
North American society to this day.

Exorbitant taxes on tobacco are meant to curb the smoking of 
cigarettes, but all they have done is to create a hugely profitable 
black market that exists across the country and has turned some 
native reserves in Ontario and Quebec into conduits for smuggled 
cigarettes and lawless principalities that recognize no civil authority.

Much of the gang violence that plagues Winnipeg's inner city is 
attributed to turf war over the highly lucrative drug trade. It has 
been suggested that the shooting at a wedding reception in the North 
End last week was part of a drug-trade related gang war and that, 
because they continue to indulge their appetites, the St. Vital 
housewife and the Broadway boulavardier are responsible for the death 
and the injuries.

If, in fact, that shooting is connected to the drug trade, it is not 
users who are responsible. It is the gunman and, ironically, the law 
itself that is to blame for the violence. Simply put, you do not need 
to deal with a gangster if you can buy your marijuana, or even your 
cocaine, at a store regulated and controlled by the government, just 
as you can now buy your tobacco and your alcohol.

Canadian governments have been slow to recognize the obvious, that 
the only way to eliminate drug-related crime is to take the 
criminality out of the use of drugs. The furthest any Canadian 
government has been willing to go is to suggest that it might be 
possible to decriminalize marijuana. That would not make use of the 
drug legal, but it would allow for it under certain circumstances. 
Bills proposing that were proposed three times by Liberal governments 
since 2002 but they died on the order paper.

One would have to be blindly optimistic to imagine that the 
Conservative government of Stephen Harper, which doesn't even like 
the idea of safe injection sites, will propose a similar bill.

Even if it were to do so, however, it would not be enough to solve 
the problem this country faces. The decriminalization of marijuana is 
not nearly enough. The problem is not so much the use of drugs as the 
illegality of that use. Education can moderate and reduce drug use 
when it is out in the open -- it is the crime that surrounds the drug 
trade that is the country's cancer. Until a federal government has 
the courage to recognize that, to accept its responsibility to the 
citizens of Winnipeg and Canadians across the country, the drugs and 
the profits from them will remain in the hands of criminals, and drug 
wars will continue.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom