HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Health Officers Want Drug Law Changes
Pubdate: Tue, 18 Oct 2005
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Ian Mulgrew
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


A Paper Says Present Drug Laws Are Based On Racism And Cultural Bias

B.C. public health officers are demanding the government 
decriminalize drug offences because the war on illicit substances is 
an abysmal failure.

In a strident, progressive paper, the province's public health 
professionals say it's time to address the harmful effects of the 
criminal prohibition against substances such as heroin and marijuana.

They say the laws are based on racism and cultural biases, not 
evidence of harm, and that the prohibition causes far more damage to 
health and to society.

"The current regulatory regime in Canada places most of these 
substances in either legal [tobacco and alcohol], prescription 
[morphine, benzodiazepines] or illegal [marijuana, cocaine, heroin] 
drug status," the paper says.

"It is important to recognize that these classifications are not 
based in pharmacology, economic analysis or risk-benefit analysis, 
but stem from historical precedent and cultural preference. There is 
a growing consensus in Canada that there should be an exploration of 
other drug control mechanisms with possible adoption of strict 
regulatory approaches to what are currently illegal drugs."

Titled, A Public Health Approach To Drug Control in Canada, the paper 
recommends reform of federal and provincial laws and international 
agreements that deal with illegal drugs, development of national 
public health strategies to manage all psychoactive drugs, including 
alcohol and prescription drugs, improved monitoring and more education.

I could not agree more.

The Health Officers Council of B.C. released the 38-page document to 
coincide with a two-day conference called Beyond Drug Prohibition: A 
Public Health Approach, which starts today at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

It is sponsored by the non-profit agency Keeping the Door Open: 
Dialogues on Drug Use, a broad coalition of social service providers, 
health authorities, research centres, charitable foundations, public 
policymakers, drug consumers, consumer advocates, government and 
business officials.

"As a society we are both inconsistent and frequently unsuccessful in 
our approaches to minimizing the harm from psychoactive substance 
use," said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s provincial health officer. "This 
forum examines some alternatives to the status quo."

Experts from around the globe are in Vancouver to attend the 
conference -- most if not all committed to overcoming the 
American-led anti-drug crusade that has wreaked havoc in developing 
and developed countries alike.

It now is impossible to deny that the negative social consequences of 
maintaining the present prohibition is fueling crime, terrorism, 
homelessness and the spread of diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis C. 
But the American federal government continues to hamper attempts by 
the United Nations and individual countries to abandon it -- even 
though 10 states have decriminalized medical marijuana and there is a 
growing U.S. lobby for legalization.

In Washington State, for instance, Seattle's King County Bar 
Association has initiated a dialogue on the drug prohibition and 
started to develop an alternative approach with doctors, pharmacists 
and other professionals.

"Our latest report exposes the failures of drug prohibition and calls 
for the state government to establish a commission of experts to 
recommend steps toward a regulatory approach for currently prohibited 
psychoactive drugs," said lawyer Roger Goodman, director of the King 
County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project.

He said the anti-drug laws are a product not of U.S. colonialism, the 
country's Calvinist-Puritan culture and the economic interests of 
capitalists such as newspaper czar William Randolph Hearst and his 
partner petroleum kingpin Lammont Dupont.

Goodman believes a regulatory system for drugs would better protect 
kids, help more addicts kick their habit and reduce the incredible 
cost and harm of maintaining the prohibition.

"If you want to cut off funding to terrorists, just regulate these 
substances -- make them unprofitable," he added.

Oregon, for example, has a licensing system for the production and 
distribution of medical marijuana and California is barrelling down 
the same path, with dispensaries providing medical pot.

"That's the beginning of the regulatory system beginning to take 
hold," Goodman said Monday during a discussion with the Sun's 
editorial board. "I'm working right now in Alabama and Georgia. We're 
talking about regulation and control. Because there is no control, 
kids can get [drugs] in high school."

Cindy Fazey, a former high-level U.N. drug policy bureaucrat, says 
Washington's overt meddling -- which includes threats, blackmail and 
economic sanctions -- has led to the adoption of mindless 
international anti-drug conventions that Canada should ignore.

She pointed to Portugal, where criminal drug possession of any kind 
has been eliminated, the Netherlands, where such laws are not 
enforced, and Italy, which does little more than take away your 
driver's licence.

"There has been a lot of movement in Europe and Asia in terms of 
ignoring the international conventions and ignoring Washington," she said.

Fazey said Canada should abandon its approach because it is a mirror 
of America's and there are much better options.

Asked what it would take to change Washington's messianic anti-drug 
perspective, she quipped: "They would have to have a mind. The belief 
in themselves and their world view is absolute -- no deviation is 
allowed. And it is wrong."

Dr. Richard Mathias of the University of B.C. faculty of medicine 
underscored the point.

"[The existing drug laws] are not in the best interest of Canada and 
Canadians," he said. "We have to find a different paradigm here. The 
paradigm we have is killing Canadians. If they [in Washington] wish 
to kill their own people, that's their business. Killing our people 
is our business."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman