Pubdate: Sun, 24 Apr 1999
Source: Sudbury Star (Canada)
Copyright: 1999 The Sudbury Star
Contact:  33 MacKenzie St., Sudbury, Ont., P3C 4Y1
Fax: (705) 674-6834


Police Chiefs' Idea Goes Too Far

Canada's police chiefs have taken a position that has surprised many
involved in the fight against drugs.

The Association of Canadian Police Chiefs recommends the federal government
decriminalize possession of small amounts of narcotics.

If the government accepts the proposal, anyone accused of possession of a
small amount of narcotics could simply sign a guilty statement and pay a
fine without having to go through the court system -- much like paying a
speeding or parking ticket.

It would also mean the person would not have a criminal record.

The proposal is meant to clear a backlog of drug cases in the court system
and allow police to concentrate their resources on investigating more
serious crimes.

As part of the recommendation, the chiefs are also calling for more federal
and provincial programs for dealing with substance abuse.

We say: It's time to change strategy in the war against drugs

The proposal has merit. Police drug unit teams would be able concentrate
their efforts on the sellers or suppliers of drugs, not the buyers. The
buyers are not the ones profiting from the drug trade.

But the chiefs' decriminalization call would include narcotics such as
heroin and cocaine.

That's a mistake.

They are right in acknowledging that it's not the small users who are the
true criminals in the drug trade. It's the suppliers who make immense
profits tax-free.

But hard drugs should never be decriminalized. Their use carries
far-reaching consequences. Just ask someone who tried to kick his heroin habit.

It's one thing to smoke a "joint" of marijuana or hashish from time to time.
It's quite another to snort or inject cocaine or heroin.

Cocaine and heroin also command a higher price on the street. People who are
hooked on those drugs and don't have the income to pay for their habit have
to turn to other means such as theft, robbery or even prostitution to come
up with the cash.

The chiefs' gesture is important in that it recognizes that little, if any,
ground is being won in the war against drugs, be it Canada, the United
States or elsewhere.

And that it's time to change the strategy. 

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