By Evan Wood, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of British Columbia
June 17th marks the forty-year anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a global “war on drugs.” Last week, perhaps to mark the occasion, an unprecedented group of world leaders came together to release the landmark report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy to the United Nations Secretary General. The Commission, which includes former heads of state of a range of Latin American and European countries as well as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, represents the highest level group ever to come together to discuss what has traditionally been a taboo subject for politicians. Remarkably, rather than advocating for a reinvestment in the war on drugs approach—as heads of state have historically been known to do—the Commission is calling for a total “paradigm shift” in drug policy, including encouraging “experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs, such as cannabis, that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime.” Read more »
Conrad Black and Evan Wood, National Post
Stephen Harper’s government has pledged to implement more severe criminal sentences — including for drug crimes — and a more Spartan regime in the country’s correctional institutions. In light of his recent election to a majority government, a re-examination of policy in this area is more urgent than ever.
All citizens want their communities to be safe from the harm caused by illegal drugs. One well-evaluated strategy, which has been widely employed in the United States, has been to enact tough laws creating mandatory minimum prison terms for drug-law offenders. The thinking goes that, through the enactment of guaranteed prison terms for those who would threaten communities by getting involved in the drug trade, we create a disincentive that will prevent people from getting into drugs in the first place. Drugs will become less available and drug use less prevalent, and organized crime will diminish.
Here in Canada, this thinking is the basis for proposed federal mandatory minimum sentencing legislation. Unfortunately, like archaic cultures that clung to the belief that the Earth was flat, those who support mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes are willfully ignorant of the near universal consensus that mandatory minimum sentences are both extremely costly and ineffective. Read more »
A Vancouver police officer approaches.
What should he do?
That was a question the Courier posed to a drug policy researcher who argued at a press conference Tuesday that too much money is being spent on enforcement in Canada and not enough on drug treatment and harm reduction.Read more »
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