Pubdate: Tue, 11 May 2010
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Rob Breakenridge
Note: Rob Breakenridge Hosts The World Tonight, Weeknights From 
6:30-9pm On AM770 CHQR


There is much talk about what sort of "conservatives" the federal 
Tories are and the nature of the "conservatives" to whom they're 
trying to appeal.

Many look at the track record of big government and see virtually 
nothing "conservative" about it at all. Others look at social, 
foreign, and justice policy and see a government quite "conservative" indeed.

True, federal funding for Toronto's gay pride parade (a successful 
event hardly in need of federal subsidies) was cut and an abortion 
debate was opened (none of it related to Canada's abortion status 
quo), but I'm not sure that amounts to a great deal.

Furthermore, the government's support of the mission in Afghanistan 
or Israel ought not determine its place on the ideological spectrum 
- -- surely such matters can rise above partisan squabble.

"Conservative" can mean many things, and there are various strands of 
conservatism which might clash on any given issue.

Broadly speaking, conservatism can be defined as a belief in less 
government intervention and more personal freedom (a philosophy I 
would subscribe to). Perhaps that is the standard by which we should 
judge the Conservatives.

For example, they have shown admirable respect for this ethos in 
their determination to put an end to Canada's long gun registry.

There is merit in much of what's been proposed in the way of changes 
to the justice system, and dealing more harshly with violent and 
serious criminals need not be at odds with a mantra of less government.

However, the most profound disappointment is the government's 
unwavering and illogical support for the abysmal failure that is the 
war on drugs.

Perhaps this is the break-off point for conservatives and 
libertarians; where many conservatives draw the line in their belief 
that the state has no business with the individual who is not a 
threat to others.

It is ironic that so many conservatives take such an approach to gun 
owners, but view marijuana smokers as in need of state intervention.

Conservatives are generally -- and rightly -- aghast at the 
nanny-state impulse to control our lives when it comes to unhealthy 
food, alcohol, or tobacco. But far too many conservatives become 
enthusiastic nanny-statists themselves when it comes to smoking a joint.

In every respect the war on drugs means less freedom and more 
government, so isn't it time that conservatives rethink their support 
of prohibition?

A recent Angus Reid poll found that 53 per cent of Canadians support 
legalizing marijuana -- in Alberta support was at 59 per cent.

The Harper government, however, is doubling down. They've 
reintroduced a bill which, among other things, imposes a mandatory 
minimum sentence of six months for anyone convicted of growing as few 
as six marijuana plants.

Why is such a bill needed? What will it accomplish? The government 
seems incapable of offering a coherent explanation to either question.

Moreover, every problem the government claims it is addressing is a 
symptom of prohibition.

It is farcical to speak of a tougher approach to organized crime when 
prohibition itself remains a major boon to those same criminal 
organizations. Taking away that gift is what would make life 
difficult for them.

A recent report from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS shows 
us clearly why the Harper government approach is doomed to fail.

Their review of 15 international studies found that 13 of them 
demonstrated that increased drug law enforcement was associated with 
increasing levels of drug market violence.

In addition, they note that U.S. marijuana usage rates are higher 
than Europe, and that Portugal -- which recently decriminalized all 
drugs -- has the lowest rates in Europe.

I suppose that to many conservatives, the B.C. Centre for Excellence 
in HIV/AIDS might seem like some left-wing outfit, but it is worth 
noting that one of the study's peer-reviewers is a senior fellow at 
the Fraser Institute.

The Fraser Institute is a strong and eloquent defender of 
conservatism, and it's very relevant to note that it's been harshly 
critical of the war on drugs.

What we have in prohibition is a grim chimera of the worst features 
of the nanny state and the police state. It should be anathema to 
anyone who truly believes in less government and more freedom.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom