Pubdate: Thu, 06 Aug 2009
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2009 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: John R. M. Smith


Re: An Inconvenient Truth (Aug. 1.)

Hurrah for this excellent and clear eyed look at Winnipeg's drug 
scene! Decriminalization has been recommended for some time by many 
informed and thoughtful voices. Surely by now no thinking person can 
deny that the traditional enforcement methods of the war on drugs are 
not working and never will.

Selling and promoting the use of drugs (other than alcohol, nicotine, 
and possibly marijuana) should remain illegal. In fact the penalties 
for this should be increased and these laws enforced vigorously. It 
is the seller-end of the market that has to be changed to decrease 
the criminals' vast profits and their need to develop new markets.

It is now beyond dispute that if an individual wants to use a 
particular drug, he or she will do so. People make their own choices 
and have to live with the consequences. Government cannot prevent bad 
choices being made but it can ensure the decision is made without 
coercion, or misinformation.

The important thing is that someone contemplating starting to use 
drugs comprehend the facts needed to help them decide so that the 
consequences are minimized. To achieve this, government must 
completely take over the supply and distribution of drugs from the 
gangs. The gangs' profit motive (like that of the tobacco industry) 
ensures the constant recruitment and initiation of new users.

Decriminalization without regulation could do more harm than good. I 
suggest that the right to obtain, possess and use each drug should be 
subject to licensing. Those who, having confirmed through the 
licensing procedure that they fully understand the potential risks of 
the drug they still wished to use, would receive it at a cost that 
would undercut the gangs and not necessitate theft and prostitution.

In this way high-quality, accurate primary preventive education for 
the specific drug concerned would be targeted precisely at each 
licence applicant. A government monopoly and affordable drugs would 
go a long way toward ensuring that safe and supervised sites for use 
of the most dangerous drugs would be accepted by users.

After an initial period of enforcement, this could permit a 
significant shift in human resources from police, legal and 
correctional service vocations to additional primary preventive work 
with vulnerable populations.

John R. M. Smith

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