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.
But lawmakers and police countered by saying decriminalization will not eliminate the social ills created by addiction or stop organized crime.
The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition report says treating drug use as a health problem, rather than a criminal one, would meet many of the objectives prohibition 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,” said MacPherson.
Decriminalizing personal use would allow police to focus more resources on organized crime groups involved in larger-scale trafficking or manufacturing, MacPherson added.
For police, the point is largely moot as long as lawmakers maintain the status quo.
“When a law is on the books, we’re compelled to enforce it,” said Staff Sgt. Tom Hanson of the Calgary police drug unit.
Even if drugs are decriminalized, Hanson said history has demonstrated organized crime groups would replace that revenue stream with another racket.
– Read the entire article at Calgary Herald.