Time to provoke some thought, about the never ending war on drugs.
Canada’s simple solution began in 1908 with the opium act. Later the same year the Proprietary And Patent Medicine Act was passed making some drugs like cocaine illegal and other drugs restricted. It also required drug companies to list ingredients. The next step upped the punishments for violating the act. That saw the introduction of imprisonment and a criminal component. This came to pass in 1911. As with all things government it saw an expanded list of drugs made illegal.
The truth is alcohol was prohibited before Marijuana. Prohibition was enacted at the end of WWI. The drought in Canada was brief however in all but PEI the law was repealed in 1921. Booze was rescued Marijuana became illegal in 1923.
in researching our disguised past, racism did play a significant role. As opium was consumed in opium dens in the Chinese Community the law made it illegal to even be in a building where opium was found by law enforcement, the punishment?
Up to seven years in prison and for those of Chinese origin it could mean deportation as well. By 1954 the drug laws were revised to allow for fourteen years in prison from seven.
So what were the consequences of the war on drugs in Canada?
The laws were punitive designed to stomp out drug use and like prohibition the effort has failed. First let me say I am not for just wiping the laws off the books. However I am becoming more convinced we should decriminalize simple possession. We have legalized pot and the predictions of doom and gloom and endless winter have not materialized.
First who saw the benefits of making the laws punitive? Who saw the benefit from prohibition? Who paid the price for the illegal trade?
First drug companies made billions as they were in league with the governments regulating the supply.
The courts and police departments saw increased budgets to stomp out the crime. Bootleggers and drug traffickers made millions per month. The harsher the punishment the more value the product had.
So who paid the heaviest price? The addicts as they made their social spiral downward. To get money for their habit they turned to petty crime and or prostitution which only served to increase participation in the black market and inner crime circles. We saw dramatic increases not only in terms of addiction, it put pressure on the entire social safety net which created a vicious circle we still live with. Our government spends more than two billion a year on law enforcement for drug offenses and about a billion on treatment programs.
Today keeping possession a criminal offense, limits treatment out of fear and stigmatization. Today’s drugs are more dangerous and thousands die from overdoses annually. Before we dig battle trenches and dig in on a position let me point out a couple of things. If you smoked how hard was it to quit? What with the millions who die from smoking or alcohol – they are victims to government hypocrisy. I say that because the reason alcohol, tobacco and pot are legal is because the governments are addicted to sin tax revenue. Socially the public supports these products remaining legal. As for pot, the big producers, former politicians and the well connected got the licenses to produce it. The biggest loser in the war against drugs really is the Canadian Taxpayer. In a century of battle the war is not over, there is no end in sight and no victory on the horizon.
No, decriminalizing illicit drugs would not be a victory but rather a truce. The laws would prioritize treatment rather than prison or death. After a stalemate of nearly a hundred years it is time society had a discussion about other options.