HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Rock Endorses Citizen's View!
Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jan 2000
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Ottawa Citizen


It's always nice to be told we're right, but to be endorsed by no less a
figure than Allan Rock, Canada's Minister of Health, is very special.

It was on Wednesday, at a press conference announcing the new health
warnings on cigarette packs, that Mr. Rock gave The Citizen the thumbs-up.
When a reporter asked why, if tobacco is so harmful, the government doesn't
just make it illegal to sell or possess it, Mr. Rock rolled his eyes.  That
idea is absurd, he said, because, as the American experience with illegal
alcohol showed, "prohibition doesn't work because people will always find a
way around it."

How gratifying. We've been saying exactly that about drugs for years. And
for years, the government has either ignored us or disagreed. Just last
week, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy wrote an indignant letter in
response to an editorial in which we made exactly Mr. Rock's point. We were
wrong, Mr. Axworthy said. In fact, he called the legalization of hard drugs
a "strategy of hopelessness" and vowed to persist in the "admittedly
daunting challenge" of eradicating drug use. In short, prohibition can work.

Now, to be precise, Mr. Rock was also asked why marijuana is criminalized
if, as he himself said, "prohibition doesn't work." Well, Mr. Rock
responded, marijuana isn't like tobacco.

The difference apparently lies not in the fact that tobacco is fiercely
addictive and kills half its users, unlike marijuana. No, the difference
according to Mr.  Rock, is that marijuana is a "psychoactive substance."

The uninformed might find that impressive. But when Allan Rock was justice
minister, he reviewed Canada's drug laws. And he's the current health
minister. He surely knows that the term "psychoactive substance" merely
means a drug that affects one's mental state. Anyone who's ever puffed a
cigarette knows nicotine is a "psychoactive substance." So is alcohol, as
anyone who's been drunk can attest.

Mr. Rock must know this. And therefore we have to suspect that he knows his
attempt to defend the prohibition of marijuana was lame. He has to support
it because it's government policy. We understand that. But wasn't he really
giving a wink to this newspaper, saying, "You're right, prohibition doesn't

Thanks, Mr. Rock. Your support is most welcome.
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