HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Primed for Dueling Drug Conferences
Source: Vancouver Province (Canada)
Contact:  http://www.vancouverprovince.com/
Pubdate:  Tue, 9 Jun 1998
Author: Jon Ferry

POLICE PRIMED FOR DUELING DRUG CONFERENCES

The problem is with the current drug policy in B.C. is that it is riddled
with hypocrisy.

Most young people do not believe the cops when they say pot-smoking is
evil. Therefore, they tend not to believe anything else the police say.

Most police officers don't seem to believe casual marijuana use is wrong
either, judging by what Vancouver police constable Gil Puder has to say.

Puder admits that, like everybody else, he smoked marijuana at university.

"In fact, out of 25 police academy classmates of mine, I think there were
only one or two who hadn't smoked pot," Puder told me over the weekend.

Let's face it, most Vancouver police officers have smoked marijuana at some
time. So there's a strong likelihood they'll agree with Puder that, in the
case of the duelling drug conferences, it's Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen who
is blowing smoke.

Duelling drug conferences?

Yes, later this week Vancouver is hosting the second of two big conferences
featuring narcotics experts from around the world.

The one this week, at the Robson Square Conference Centre, is being hosted
and promoted by Owen, also the police board chairman. Owen's police chief,
Bruce Chambers, is the keynote after-dinner speaker Friday.

The first conference, run by the free-enterprise Fraser Institute, grabbed
national headlines in April when Puder spoke out passionately in favor of
marijuana legalization -- defying Chambers' attempts to muzzle him.

It turns out both Owen and Chambers were invited to speak at the Fraser
Institute conference, but turned down the offer. Later, Owen decided to
bad-mouth the event, calling it "a big love-in" for legalizing drugs.

That drew the ire of Fraser Institute official Patrick Basham who pointed
out the right-wing think-tank was hardly a haven for hippies and that Owen
was, well, a bit of a dope.

Basham accused the mayor of being "determined to remain sitting atop the
policy fence" while requesting the Fraser Institute "feed him our research
so he might be provided with sufficient intellectual cover". Owen, in other
words, had been speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Puder also blasted the mayor for hippie-baiting. Indeed, the constable
questioned the sanity of certain anti-drug extremists Owen had invited to
his gabfest. "Owen's got some loonies coming and his pretence for doing
this is, 'oh, well, we want balance'. Well, that's like saying, 'well, I'm
going to invite a Nazi to the Jewish congress just for balance'. You know,
it doesn't make any sense," Puder said.

Though I would be considered a redneck these days on most issues, I  have
never quite understood the demonization of pot. What I do understand is
that the appearance on the media scene of the 38- year-old Puder has
changed the nature of the whole debate.

Puder clearly is no pimply-faced  weed, having shot to death an armed
addict. He considers the "war" police wage on recreational marijuana-users
to be unwinnable and dishonest. After all, alcohol and tobacco really are
more harmful products.

Chambers obviously is not amused by having his nose tweaked by Puder, but
so far has not followed through on his threat to discipline the errant
officer.

In any case, it's not hard to figure out why Puder has not been invited to
the mayor's conference where, the police officer believes, the issue of
drug legalization will be avoided. "My God, no, that would just be like
spitting on the flag," he said.

My opinion is that it's high time we put flag-waving and
conference-squabbling aside and introduced some candor into this
discussion.

- ---
Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)