HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Let's Admit The Drug Law Is A Bad Trip
Pubdate: Tue, 04 Apr 2000
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2000 Southam Inc.
Contact:  300 - 1450 Don Mills Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3R5
Fax: (416) 442-2209
Author: Donna Laframboise


It didn't make headlines elsewhere, but something important happened
this past Saturday. The National Post ran a lead editorial titled
"Time to legalize pot."

The reason this is significant is because it means yet another
mainstream, respectable voice has joined the growing chorus of
institutions and individuals that believe our drug laws are

While the editorial positions of the Post and, say, the Toronto Star,
are frequently miles apart, on this issue both newspapers are in
agreement. While the Ottawa Citizen and the Globe and Mail adopt
rather different stances on many matters they, too, believe the war on
drugs does more harm than good.

Last month it was the turn of the Economist, the British business
magazine, to run a cover story and a lead editorial demonstrating why
the war on drugs (as it is unfolding in Third World countries with
U.S.-funded military assistance) is counterproductive and
ill-conceived. Making passing reference to the U.S. during the Vietnam
era, the magazine declares that the drug war "will not be won with
helicopters." Decriminalization, says the Economist, must be seriously

In early 1996, the National Review, which bills itself as "America's
conservative magazine," devoted much of one edition to the theme: 'The
War on Drugs is Lost.' "It is our judgment that the war on drugs has
failed," wrote its editors. "We all agree on movement toward
legalization, even though we may differ on just how far."

Nor is this tidal wave of opinion building only among the media. From
police chiefs, to health care workers, to lawyers' groups, to
coroners, an ever-growing consensus of prominent, responsible voices
believe there are more important matters on which police and court
time should be spent than chasing down illicit drugs. This is
especially the case since most criminal charges involve marijuana -- a
substance demonstrably less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

Those dealing first hand with heroin overdoses on the West Coast have
been arguing for years that treating addicts like criminals rather
than like patients desperately in need of health care is the wrong
approach. But while law enforcement funds continue to be squandered on
drug arrests, funding for methadone clinics is often shamefully inadequate.

Then there are the sick and the dying, the AIDS and cancer patients.
Someone in my own family falls into this category at the moment.
Suffering from wrenching nausea and in need of having her appetite
stimulated, her doctors' hands are nevertheless tied. The only legal
medication capable of subduing her vomiting also happens to be a
powerful anti-psychotic drug. Its side effects are harrowing: She's
left anxious and in need of sedatives that, in turn, cloud her mind.

It isn't possible to know, for certain, whether matters would be less
distressing for our family if she could be treated with small amounts
of legal, quality-controlled marijuana. But it makes me angry that we
live in a society where this option is out of the question for no good

Even if one agrees with the Post's editorial board that "the world
would be a better place" without the recreational use of marijuana,
(personally I might choose to keep marijuana over alcohol), most
sensible people acknowledge that the decades-long war against illicit
drugs has established one thing: These substances cannot be wished

Not only are illicit drugs available in every city in this country,
the more telling fact is that they are readily available in our
prisons. If armed guards, stone walls, barbed wire, steel bars, locked
doors and body searches can't keep drugs out of our prison system what
would lead us to imagine that we can eliminate them from society at

In recent years, many of our politicians, including Kim Campbell, Jean
Charest, Gilles Duceppe and Alexa McDonough have admitted to smoking
marijuana. A number of senators and MPs have publicly supported its
decriminalization. Canadian Alliance MP Keith Martin, an emergency
room physician, has a private members' bill before the House of
Commons that would decriminalize pot.

A similar situation exists south of the border, with several U.S.
states, media outlets and politicians demanding change.

The time to act, to stop this foolishness, is surely now.
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