Source: Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
Pubdate: Monday 29 June 1998
Author: Eugene Oscapella


Unfortunately, Charles Gordon's column ("Second thoughts on the war on the
war on drugs," June 25) typifies much of the rather muddled thinking on
this issue. It is also very much out of step with the more rational
analysis of drug policy that has appeared in the Citizen in recent times.

Mr. Gordon makes the assumption that the alternative to the current system
of criminal prohibition of drugs is complete legalization, with no
controls. This greatly distorts the position of most drug policy reformers,
who call for health-based regulatory alternatives to the use of the
criminal law.

Among the many well-qualified researchers and reformers I have encountered
over the years, and in the extensive literature I have reviewed during that
time, only the tiniest minority call for a complete removal of regulatory
controls over drugs. The law has a place in shaping our response to drugs.
However, that law should by and large not be the hugely counterproductive
criminal law.

Mr. Gordon also comments on the international group, including 80
Canadians, that sent a petition to the United Nations urging world leaders
to reconsider the war on drugs. He states that "many" of these 80 Canadians
were not "loonies," meaning of course that some of them were. Perhaps he
would do us the favour of identifying those he considers "loonies," and
explaining why he views them as such.

The Canadian signatories to the letter, which was addressed to the
Secretary-General of the United Nations, included physicians, public health
workers, members of Parliament, street workers who deal with drug users, a
Nobel Prize winner, numerous lawyers and many others from the most senior
echelons of drug policy research in this country. It may entertain readers
to denigrate some of those who oppose the war on drugs by calling them
loonies, but it hardly serves to advance intelligent debate on a critically
important societal issue.

Mr. Gordon also implies that changing the drug laws will result in more
drugs being available in schools. I need only remind him that the primary
motivation for people to sell drugs in our schools is the extraordinary
profits engendered by the criminal prohibition of drugs. Our current drug
laws, by creating an enormously profitable black market, provide the
incentive to sell drugs to kids.

Mr. Gordon argues further that possession of marijuana is decriminalized in
a de facto sense. How does he explain the fact that the majority of the
tens of thousands of criminal charges for drug offences in Canada continue
to be for the simple possession of marijuana? Some drugs, including
marijuana, can cause harm under some circumstances, as can caffeine,
alcohol and fat-laden foods. However, far and away the greatest damage
linked to drugs in our society is that caused by the punitive
prohibitionist policies that we have so recklessly constructed around drugs
and that we so blindly continue to reinforce.

Eugene Oscapella, Ottawa

Barrister and solicitor,

Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy

Copyright 1998 The Ottawa Citizen 

- ---
Checked-by: Mike Gogulski