Report calls for decriminalizing both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs
A report out Thursday calls on Canada to decriminalize personal use of all narcotics and regulate cannabis, saying current policies are failing to reduce drug use or make Canadians safer.
The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition says treating drug use as a health problem, rather than a criminal one, would meet many of the objectives prohibitions has historically failed to accomplish.
“We’re doing this to improve public health and safety, not create a free-for-all. What we have now is a free-for-all,” said executive director Donald MacPherson, who co-authored the report.
MacPherson stressed the coalition, made up of 30 non-governmental organizations and based at Simon Fraser University, doesn’t make the case that drug use is harmless.
However, MacPherson said treating drug possession and consumption as a criminal matter stigmatizes users and creates a barrier to them seeking help.
“This is a pragmatic response to an activity that’s already taking place ... and we’re saying criminalization is making it worse,” he said.
Decriminalizing use of all drugs is a controversial recommendation in North America, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has been in lockstep with the U.S. federal government against any incremental moves toward easing drug laws.
Liberal governments under former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were moving toward decriminalizing marijuana, but the lection of Harper’s Conservatives in 2006 put an end to that.
However, there are signs attitudes are shifting in the U.S.
Last year, voters in Colorado and Washington passed ballot measures decriminalizing personal use of marijuana in their states.
Public opinion in Canada is also turning in favour of decriminalizing cannabis, said MacPherson, whose report goes a step further to recommend regulating and taxing it.
Pointing toward tobacco as an example, MacPherson said regulation could decrease cannabis use and do more to keep it out of the hands of young people.
“It would allow us to have a full discussion of the benefits, the harms the messaging we want to put out there with youth and underage users,” he said.
A 2012 study done by researchers in B.C. estimated the value of the province’s recreational marijuana market at more than $350 million — a lucrative commodity the government could reap tax revenue from if it was regulated, MacPherson said.
Instead, the report said the federal government has set aside $528 million between 2012 and 2017 for its National Anti-Drug plan, with most of that money going toward law enforcement.
The coalition says Canada’s approach is out of step with an increasing number of countries that are decriminalizing drugs and seeing benefits — including Portugal, which decriminalized all illicit drugs in 2001.
“In Portugal decriminalization has had the effect of decreasing the numbers of people injecting drugs, decreasing the number of people using drugs problematically, and decreasing trends of drug use among 15 to 24 year olds,” the coalition’s 112-page report says.
The Portuguese findings were republished from a 2011 study by British researchers, who said the role of decriminalization in Portugal’s decreases is debatable.
Release Quiet Revolution Drug Decriminalisation Policies
“But the evidence appears clear that decriminalization has not been the disaster critics had said it would be,” wrote Ari Rosmarin and Niamh Eastwood, co-authors of the U.K. study.
The British researchers, who compared drug policies around the world, also said decriminalization isn’t a cure-all but it’s preferable to prohibition.
“What emerges is that the harms of criminalization far outweigh those of decriminalization,” they wrote.
http://www.calgaryherald.com/health/Rep ... story.html
http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Repo ... story.html