Decriminalize It All!

Drugs

* This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) issued a report last week titled “Getting to Tomorrow: A Report on Canadian Drug Policy.” The report calls for our Conservative federal government to change its National Anti-Drug Strategy and decriminalize all drugs for personal use and legalize and regulate marijuana for adults.

The authors of the report (Connie Carter and Donald MacPherson) recommend that Canada reform its drug policy and regulations to include evidence-based approaches to drugs, with the hope of eliminating the stigma and discrimination around the substances.

Evidence-based approaches are not in our Conservative Government’s vocabulary or ideology. If it were, not only would our drug policies be vastly different, but our environmental and economic policies would be as well. You can’t expect a government so hostile to science to embrace facts of any kind.

Speaking of hostility, since Stephen Harper first came into office seven years ago, his party has been nothing but antagonistic towards all forms of drugs. Our law and order government has increased fines and jail time for drug offences and even introducing mandatory minimum sentences for all sorts of drug felonies.

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The “lock them up and throw away the key” approach runs in conjunction with the conservative belief that drug addiction itself is criminal.

Harper has continually tried to close North America’s only safe injection site. Vancouver’s “Insite” has proven repeatedly that these sites reduce crime, overdoses and the spread of HIV. Insite has even helped addicts to kick the habit.

A four-year study released last year suggests both Ottawa and Toronto would benefit from supervised drug injection sites, but all attempts to create them have been blocked by then Health Minister Deb Matthews. Other critics of these new safe injection sites included former Ottawa police chief Vern White and ironically Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

It’s just like our Government to keep moving in the opposite direction despite Stephen Harper admitting last year in South America that the drug war has been a failure. “What I think everybody believes, is that the current approach is not working. But it is not clear what we should do.” He said.

Well, if the status quo isn’t working and it isn’t clear what to do about it, why does Harper’s government continue to dismiss every type of alternative? Do the deaths of 60 000 Mexicans or the record number of incarcerated Americans not convey a message to him? Does he not understand that it’s cheaper to treat those trying to quit?

The CDPC report also recommended an increase in health and social services for addicts and social users alike. Services such as housing and treatment for drug addicts and increased support for educational programs about safer drug use must be in the cards. The report essentially advocated an increase of treatment centers and safe injection sites.

It’s understandable that a certain portion of the population might be skeptical of decriminalizing all forms of drugs, particularly the elderly and religious. The longevity of drug prohibition coupled with decades of anti-drug propaganda has left a lasting impression on our aging populace. It’s no wonder the call for change is coming mainly from the younger generations. I’m not entirely sure what religion has against drugs, but I imagine it has something to do with the purity of the soul.

If we weighed the pros and cons of decriminalizing drugs, you’ll find the argument is fairly one sided. The primary reasons to support decriminalization are cost and health. Canada spends more than $4 on enforcement for every $1 we spend on the health related to illegal drugs ($400.3 million – $88 million).

Cartoon-War-on-DrugsIf you factor in courts and corrections, we spend $2.3 billion annually. Roughly 50 000 people are arrested and charged every year resulting in 400 000 court appearances. This is just bad policy given that $1 spent on treatment will achieve the same reduction in the flow of cocaine as $7.3 spent on enforcement.

With all the money allocated to enforcement, those who want to quit or be treated are the ones who continue to suffer. Now, what kind of “moral” society spends more money locking people up than they do to treat sick people?

In Canada, we have public health care and we don’t have private prisons, I can’t understand where the motivation to keep drug users and dealers in prison is coming from. The only real argument to keep drugs illegal is that drug use would increase, but how real of an argument is that? Even if it’s true, at least we would have more funds to treat those addicted.

I was a drug user throughout my late teens and twenties. I can tell you the legality of drugs didn’t come into play when I did them. If anything, it attracted me to them. Do people still believe that keeping drugs illegal will keep rebellious teens from trying them?

Honestly, from what I remember back then, I was pissed off at everything (still am!). My parents instilled a good set of morals upon me, but no government was going to tell me what I can and can’t do. If only our Conservative government could receive the same morals I got, maybe we’d have more treatment centres and less prisons.

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