Pubdate: Wed, 05 Jan 2011
Source: Burnaby Newsleader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 Rick McGowan
Author: Rick McGowan


While I cannot support Mr. Evans' position on the minimum wage, I
commend him on his support for decriminalization of some drugs (Fresh
look needed in approach to drugs, Letters, Dec. 22). Marijuana use is
probably just as destructive to families as alcohol, tobacco and
gambling, yet it remains illegal while these other vices do not. Like
Mr. Evans, I cannot condone the irresponsible use of, or criminality
associated with the use of drugs, but it is hypocritical to treat them
differently than alcohol and tobacco. According to B.C.'s Vital
Statistics in 2009, there were 2,142 deaths attributable directly and
indirectly to the use of alcohol and 6,089 deaths due to smoking. In
contrast there were 363 drug-induced deaths, not including deaths due
to HIV and hepatitis from shared needles. Based on these numbers, it
would probably be better for society to outlaw smoking and drinking,
but I doubt that will happen.

In light of our reckless consumptive habits, the best way to protect
our children from drug abuse is to set a good example as parents,
regulate the sale and potency of the product, and tax the heck out of
it. We spend too much time and money trying to catch, prosecute and
incarcerate drug users. Through regulation of alcohol and gambling, we
have virtually eliminated the profitability of these vices for
criminals. A more significant portion of the taxes collected would
need to be used to deal with the problems of addiction and poor
health. Ideally, people would not use drugs and alcohol to escape the
stresses in their lives, but until that day arrives we should aim to
reduce the harm caused by drug use and its association with organized

In Portugal, decriminalization has led to far fewer deaths among
problematic users and there is some evidence to support that use among
younger people has declined. Police and health authorities have been
able to prioritize resources to focus on prosecuting dealers,
educating people on the harmful effects of drugs and providing
treatment. The next logical step would be to legalize drugs and treat
them as they treat alcohol. If someone is going to profit from the
sale of drugs, I would rather it be the government than some local

There is no quick fix to alcohol and drug abuse, but at the very least
we can stop being hypocritical about it.

Rick McGowan

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