Forbes Magazine published an article this morning entitled “Let’s be Blunt: It’s Time to End the Drug War.” This article made it to the “front page of the Internet” as the highest-ranked story on Reddit. It’s not the first; it seems like a monthly occurrence that a respected, even conservative, institution comes out in support of the legalization of marijuana. Coalitions of doctors, crown prosecutors, mayors, law enforcement personnel, and, of course, citizens have come out against the war on drugs. Editorials on the utter failure of drug prohibition are published so frequently that their arguments are well-ingrained in every Canadian’s consciousness.
Everyone, it seems, except for the government. But even Stephen Harper himself this week admitted the failure of the war on drugs. That’s a big step for the leader of a government that prides itself on its “tough on crime” policy, a government that this year passed legislation introducing mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes despite warnings from even the most conservative of U.S. officials. When Texas conservatives are saying “woah there, hombre, chill out,” you know you’ve gone a little overboard.
What those Texans were getting at is that they have tried this experiment before, and failed. Where “tough on crime” meets drugs, all you get is more people in jail; you might cause temporary breaks in the supply chain, but the resulting higher prices will only benefit the remaining dealers more and draw others into a more lucrative racket.
Regarding the moral and practical/economic arguments against the war on drugs, they are so commonly understood by most Canadians that they are not worth wasting your time with (but there are numerous resources, some of which I have linked to, that are worth looking at for those who are interested).
The purpose of this post is not to convince you that the United States’ war on drugs, in which Canada has taken part, has failed. You, like most Canadians, already know that. The purpose is just to collectively gape in amazement that our government, which has admitted to this failure, and is aware of Canadians’ wishes, continues to fight a losing battle at great expense in law enforcement, lost potential taxes, and most importantly, lost human potential. And rather than re-evaluate our country’s position on drugs, the government has instead fought back against the facts, fighting harm reduction clinics proven to be effective, and writing mandatory minimum sentences into Canadian drug law. Even Harper’s admission that the drug war has failed came with a caveat that there is no alternative being considered.
Go out and celebrate 4/20 today, even if you don’t smoke marijuana. Hug a stoner; they often carry treats, and enjoy hugs. Show Stephen Harper that you haven’t bought into his fear campaign.
Note: an excellent documentary on this subject, based in B.C., is available for free here. It’s called The Union: The Business Behind Getting High. Warning: it will make you angry, and you will probably own at least one article of clothing made of hemp within a week of watching it.