Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2016
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2016 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Chris Nelson
Page: A5


We need to wage war against dope like we did against smoking

Arguing that smoking dope is safer than drinking booze is akin to stating
that getting shot in the leg is preferable to taking one in the head.

Yet, that's the argument often used by pro-pot crusaders, as we debate the
minutiae about what age should Canadians be allowed to legally buy weed.
Well, folks, that bus long ago left the station - kids can already get a
hold of dope with little effort.

Don't get me wrong; let's legalize the stuff. In fact, we should
decriminalize every other drug, because the entire campaign to treat
addiction as a matter of legality rather than mental health is among the
deadliest and costliest exercises society has tried.

That failure is reflected in addiction rates in Canada that are truly
staggering - designate all Manitoba as a federal penitentiary and we'd
still run out of room to jail sufferers.

It isn't just pot smokers and fentanyl seekers. The willy-nilly
production, prescribing and swallowing of legal opioids beneath the
all-encompassing banner of pain relief is at levels in Canada above
anywhere in the world. It's a cosy multibillion-dollar relationship
between drug companies, doctors and a willing population wanting a pill
for every ache and occasion.

If that isn't enough, then the effects of the copious amounts of booze we
swallow is even worse for individuals and society.

Make no mistake: alcohol's a poison. That's why our bodies go into
survival mode, halting other digestion to immediately tackle the toxin at
the first sip. Yet criminalizing booze simply led to the ascendancy of Al
Capone and his ilk.

Sadly, we're surrounded by addiction. Many of us are addicts of something
- - of the four scars on my body, three arrived courtesy of being tanked up
on booze.

Meanwhile, in the ultimate farce, four of every five inmates are addicts,
and drugs in jails are a huge problem. So what possible good arises from
sending people hooked on a substance to a place where 80 per cent of new
neighbours are in a similar position and narcotics flow like the Nile?

Of course, the self-righteous (probably with a prescription for
painkillers on file and a bottle of scotch in the cupboard) believe this
is someone else's problem. If nine people OD and die in Vancouver in a
single day, so what, the world's better off without junkies.

Ignore such callousness and hypocrisy and instead consider the billions of
everyone's tax dollars spent policing, convicting and incarcerating all
the addicts we deal with through the justice system.

Then add in damage from the rising crime rate in places such as Calgary,
which police lay directly at the door of desperation from those hooked on
opioids. Can people still think they're unaffected by this?

Locking people up isn't helping - not when four out of five remain or
become addicted inside our jails. And giving kids criminal records for
carrying one drug while the advertising industry fills our screens with
similar youngsters merrily about to imbibe on a different one is the
ultimate in failed policy.

Sure, keep going after big-time dealers with all the state's powers - and
include those doctors who hand out painkillers willy-nilly like Santa in a
candy store - but treat addiction for what it is: a mental health issue
leading to physical dependency.

Only the naive would think we're going to eliminate this entirely.

Something in our psyche desires the reality release such chemical
reactions in our brains provide.

But we can limit and reduce addiction's insidious grip.

Sixty years ago, half the population was hooked on another killer -
tobacco. We didn't declare it illegal and start filling the jails.

Instead, we offered education, methods to quit, ripped away its glamorous
advertising image, and limited places of usage.

It took time, but we made smoking uncool. In doing so, we dropped those
user numbers to almost one in five and added millions of healthier years
to Canadians' lives.

So let's legalize drugs. Then let's begin a war against them we might
actually win.
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