Pubdate: Mon, 29 Apr 2013
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2013 Stabroek News
Author: John Anderson


Dear Editor,

I am a criminologist who came to Guyana for 10 days last month to
visit friends in the Corentyne area. I am also a speaker for Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) which is an international group
of current and former peace officers who are dedicated to drawing
attention to the devastating consequences of drug prohibition. I made
several observations during my trip which do not bode well for
Guyana's efforts to control the global drug trade.

Although we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Guyanese people,
there were two events which we found quite disturbing. Both involved
being stopped on the Rupert Craig Highway by heavily armed men. Had it
not been for our driver who quickly identified them as military
personnel or, on the second occasion, as police officers, we had no
way of knowing that the intervention was legally sanctioned.

Remarkably, as soon as my wife and I were identified as "Caucasians"
at these roadblocks, we were waved through with no bother. Therefore,
if one wants to transport drugs through Guyana, it seems that criminal
organizations need only to include Caucasians as passengers in
vehicles containing contraband. However, that is not my main point.
The roadblocks and other deterrence-based strategies which are
currently intended to deter drug traffickers will not prevent drugs
from entering and leaving Guyana, nor will they have an impact on the
number of domestic drug users.

The Canadian experience with drug control strategies, modelled after
the United States, has focused almost exclusively on deterring the
supply side of drugs for nearly 100 years. By official accounts,
including two Senate reports by our federal government, the laws are
an unmitigated failure and waste of taxpayers' money.

Marijuana has become more plentiful, potent and cheaper since its
criminalization in 1919. Our government has surrendered its control of
the cannabis trade to armed thugs who engage in public turf wars at
considerable risk to by-standers. Law enforcement efforts to control
drugs have only short-term results and set the conditions for further
violence as gangs continually fight over market share.

According to recent polls, the majority of residents in my province
(British Columbia) are in support of legalizing marijuana to be sold
through licensed, private vendors, much like the state of Washington
which borders our province. The criminalization of marijuana is
rapidly losing public support.

As an alternative to a so-called "war on drugs", we might learn from
one of Canada's most successful drug strategies against the deadliest
substance of them all: tobacco.

Fewer Canadian youth are smoking than ever before. Tobacco is tightly
regulated in Canada. It cannot be sold to minors, advertised in print
or electronic media, and retailers must hide tobacco products behind
opaque screens. Consistent public education messages in our schools
warn students of the hazards of tobacco but leave the decision about
smoking to them without any risk of arrest for their choices.

Our drug policies to deter the use of tobacco products are showing
signs of success. These lessons involving strict marketing controls
and education for youth can be employed to control other psychoactive
substances. The outcome will be a reduction in the demand for drugs
and criminal organizations will lose the profit incentive which fuels
their violence.

Yours faithfully, John Anderson Criminology Department Vancouver
Island University
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