HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Our Pot Laws Accomplish Nothing
Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Contact:  #250, 4990-92 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, T6B 3A1 Canada
Fax: (780) 468-0139

It's been a long time coming but the Senate has finally agreed to launch a
thorough review of Canada's drug laws.

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin has been pressing for such a probe for a year
and last week his colleagues in the red chamber unanimously voted to appoint
a special committee for the job.

The question now is whether Canada will have the guts to shed the same
prohibitionist philosophy that permeates the hysterical (and highly
unsuccessful) anti-drug policies of the U.S., and implement a practical drug

For now, though, it's business as usual. The pot busts along Highway 16 have
become almost routine and numerous home growing operations in Vancouver have
been closed down over the past couple of months.

Even the police, however, acknowledge that the arrests have made barely a
dent in the huge market for the highly potent B.C. bud.

After yet another bust last month, a Hinton Mountie said his officers were
only nabbing 3% to 5% of the pot circulating through his jurisdiction.

So what exactly have the rash of busts over the past few months
accomplished? Have we rid the streets of marijuana? No. Are there fewer
social ills because of the arrests? No.

Instead, the courts are more clogged than usual and the jails will be jammed
with even more drug offenders whose incarceration will do absolutely nothing
to curb Canadians' appetite for pot.

At $50,000 a year per inmate, it's a painfully expensive way to perpetuate
an unworkable drug policy.

Part of the mandate of the Senate drug law review is to explore the health
effects of cannabis and examine whether an alternative policy would lead to
increased harm.

There is already consensus in the medical community that moderate use of
marijuana has little effect on health.

And I can't see significant numbers of abstainers suddenly becoming pot
heads if marijuana possession is decriminalized or outright legalized.

Those who like the stuff are already using it, law or no law. Rather than
banning pot, surely we ought to treat it like alcohol - with age
restrictions and public education campaigns warning of the dangers of

The U.S. would not be happy if Canada were to liberalize its drug laws, of

We're talking about a country that's trying to extradite an American woman
who fled to B.C. for her alleged involvement in a medical marijuana-growing

The woman faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail.

This may give you some idea of why the U.S. federal budget for drug
enforcement has jumped from $1 billion US in 1980 to more than $16 billion
and why 60% of inmates in the U.S. federal prison system are non-violent
drug offenders.

We're not doing much better. Canada has the highest number of drug arrests
per capita of any nation other than the U.S.

The problem is not just Canada's unreasonable attitude towards pot but our
policies regarding all illicit drugs.

Three decades ago, the Le Dain commission recommended a gradual withdrawal
of criminal sanctions against users.

More recently, in 1997, a report on Canada's drug policy prepared for the
Senate concluded that our drug laws are "soundly prohibitionist" and don't
reflect the experiences of other countries.

"The problems related to criminalizing drug users and its failure to reduce
drug availability have not been addressed while the financial and human
costs of criminalizing illicit drug use continue to rise," the report said

We would be smart to emulate some of the European harm-reduction strategies.

In Switzerland, for example, where drugs are provided for long-term,
dependent users, the crime rate dropped by 60% and unemployment fell by 50%.

It's time to admit our war on drugs is a flop.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk