Calls to end the infamous War on Drugs don’t just come from the funny dressed hairy crowd anymore. Over the decades a number of Canadian senate committees have called for an end to it and the conservative Fraser Institute has condemned it since 2001.
Last June the United Nations Global Commission on Drugs Policy put it this way: “the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but do no harm to others should be ended.” Here in BC, Stop the Violence, which consists of prominent BC police officers, health professionals, legal experts and academics have been advocating much the same.
While we have become used to ex-presidents expressing the sentiment, just a few weeks ago sitting heads of state of Central and South American countries expressed their frustration. They called the War on Drugs a never ending and unwinnable war for which the US provides the money and their citizens the many dead bodies. Last month BC mayors, including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and a unanimous city council, joined the call to end the war on drugs.
According to a recent Angus-Reid poll only 12 per cent of British Columbians think the current marijuana legislation is effective and 69 per cent agree that BC would be better off taxing and regulating the use of marijuana. With science, politicians and the public on side, one would think that shifting to a “tax and regulate” marijuana law would be easy… but it is not. Our two large provincial political parties lack the courage to stand up, and insist that this is a “federal issue” which has nothing to do with them. The out of touch Harper government is acting against international trends and the will of a majority of Canadians by passing draconian mandatory incarceration legislation for minor drug offenses.
The only way to end the madness seems to be from the bottom up, to start change at the municipal level. Nelson, with its own municipal police force and a healthy alternative culture has a unique opportunity to start that ball rolling. All it would take is a courageous act of municipal disobedience by a few citizens and local politicians with the cooperation of the Nelson police.
That is how, back in the 1970s, the successful Dutch harm reduction policies began in the city of Utrecht. A conversation between the mayor, the chief of police and a local entrepreneur allowed the opening of the first, tightly regulated Amsterdam style “coffee shop.” The now famous Dutch non-enforcement tolerance model quickly spread, has been used for four decades in Holland and is adapted around the world. Today, Dutch kids smoke less marijuana than Canadian kids, Dutch coffee shop owners pay taxes on their profits, police protect minors and keep out organized criminals and the Dutch judicial system focuses its resources on serious crime.
After decades of carnage and failure there is now almost universal agreement that the American War on Drugs has been an expensive, ineffective, man eating experiment for which the public has paid the cost while criminals have profited.
May courage and common sense prevail in Nelson and then spread across the country — just do it Nelson!
Sjeng Derkx, spokesman