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Pubdate: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 Source: Calgary Herald (Canada) Contact: http://www.calgaryherald.com/ Note: The article was also published in the Vancouver Sun, their contact is: DECRIMINALIZE STREET DRUGS, SPEAKERS URGE VANCOUVER (CP) - Decriminalizing street drugs is the only way to address drug epidemics, a city police officer and many other speakers told a conference Tuesday. Present drug laws are making drug dealers rich and leaving addicts to die on the streets, speakers told the Fraser Institute forum, Sensible Solutions to the Urban Drug Problem. Decriminalizing some or all drugs for medicinal or recreational use would help addicts and free up police to chase dealers, who are the real criminals, said speakers at the one-day meeting. Const. Gil Puder, a 16-year member of the Vancouver police force, felt so strongly about the topic he ignored a written order from police chief Bruce Chambers that he not to appear unless he changed the material in his presentation. Puder said decided to go ahead with the speech because he didn't want to compromise his beliefs, but erased "Vancouver police department" from his name tag to emphasize his views were his own and not those of his employer. Chambers said he was disappointed with Puder but refused to discuss publicly any disciplinary actions the constable could be facing. "I am concerned about the accuracy and appropriateness of the speech, that it didn't meet the standards of the police department," Chambers said, declining to elaborate. Former deputy police chief Ken Higgins, when he was still with Vancouver police last year, also called for decriminalization of narcotics possession. Some police drug experts use "smear tactics and conjecture" in anti-drug speeches to school children, Puder said. Police are supporting "the black market cash cow for criminals" by not endorsing a lawful drug supply, he said. The first change in the system should be the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of heroin and opiates for medicinal purposes, Puder said. "Cocaine and chemical drugs might then be critically studied on their own merits," he said. Puder called for a controlled drug supply accompanied by health, education and economic programs. A lawyer with the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy said his Ottawa-based group supports making it legal for adults to use and share small quantities of any drug, to cultivate marijuana, and to use heroin for medicinal purposes. Prohibition has not stopped the use of drugs in modern societies such as Vancouver, which has the highest rate of HIV-infection among intravenous drug users in the Western world, said Eugene Oscapella.