Send Your MP a Message: Vote No on Bill C-15

Bill C-15, the proposed drug legislation by the Conservative Party of Canada, would impose mandatory minimum jail sentences for marijuana. Tell your Member of Parliament to Vote No On C-15!. now has a form emailer for MPs. Click here to send an email to Members of Parliament opposing Bill C-15. Simply scroll down to the bottom of the letter, fill in the fields and click send. It’s that simple!

We need everyone to send emails to our Members of Parliament if we are going to defeat C-15!

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Bill C-15 is a dangerous and radical change in Canadian drug policy that will further enrich gangsters, create more violence on our streets and assuredly fail to reduce either the demand for, or the availability of, drugs in our society.

This statement may seem bold. But it is backed by the preponderance of available science. Comprehensive studies published by the Senate of Canada, the Canadian Department of Justice, the European Commission, the US Congressional Research Service, the Fraser Institute, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Rand Corporation all support the view that mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offences are useless at best. At worst, these policies will increase the dangers associated with the drug markets and, therefore, the chaos created on our streets.

The types of mandatory sentences contained in Bill C-15 have been utter failures in the United States. There is no evidence that harsher penalties affect drug use rates or the supply of drugs on the streets. Nor do such sentences appear to deter prohibition-related violence. Instead of seeing success from its mandatory sentencing policies, the United States has become the world’s largest jailer with 1 in every 99 adults is in custody. The United States has 5% of the worlds population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Many of those persons are serving time for non-violent drug offences. Bottom line: the United States has some of the harshest sentencing regimes in the non-totalitarian world while also suffering from the highest rates of drug use, the highest violent crime rates and the richest, most powerful gangs. Instead of serving a positive purpose, Bill C-15 will increase the power of organized crime and the violence associated with the illegal drug markets.

Indeed, the very idea of mandatory minimum sentences relies on assumptions that are simply false. There is no evidence of any deterrent effect on organized criminals: these people are already willing to risk arrest, prosecution, incarceration and, indeed, a violent death from other criminals in order to make the huge profits associated with high-level drug trafficking. There is no evidence of deterrent effect on street-level dealers: these people are often addicted to the substances they sell and commit the crime out desperation driving by their addiction to very expensive drugs. Worse, while Bill C-15 purports to target “serious” drug offences, its terms apply to even very minor offences such as growing a single marijuana plant. This helps no one in our society.

Increasing the risk (harsher sentences) associated with a behaviour (drug crime) only prevents that behaviour so long as the benefit (profit) stays the same. In the case of drug sales, harsher sentencing may increase the street price and therefore the profit of dealing drugs. This phenomenon of prohibition guarantees that the supply of individuals who will commit these crimes is virtually unlimited.

The drug wars in Mexico and Vancouver only serve to exemplify these issues. Latin America generally, and Mexico specifically, have been the focus of intense interdiction efforts for decades, yet cocaine is still as available as ever. What has changed is simply that drug lords now control vast swaths of territory. Afghanistan is another example: despite a massive military presence, the supply and availability of opium is at record levels, while organized criminals (working for or with the Taliban) control more of the country every year.

Indeed, the evidence is that the prohibition of drugs has been a complete and total failure. Drugs are as available today as they have ever been. Drug use is higher in countries that have harsher sentences and penalties, and lower in countries without such penalties. The only real effect of increasing penalties is increasing prison populations and levels of violence on the streets.

Our teenagers report that it is easier to access illegal substances such as marijuana than regulated substances such as tobacco or alcohol. Why? Because alcohol and tobacco stores (usually) check ID and drug dealers never do. Teenage tobacco smoking rates have decreased due to effective regulation and education, while at the same time teenage marijuana smoking rates have increased because of no regulation and misleading education.

If you vote for C-15 you are guaranteeing higher profits for gangs, more violence on our streets, unregulated access by teenagers, and the continued supply and availability of drugs. Bill C-15 is a step in the wrong direction. Ironically, it comes just as the United States is amending and repealing many of that country’s mandatory sentencing regimes. Bill C-15 is not a solution to the problems caused by the prohibition markets.

On the other hand, it is possible to take steps to reduce instead of increase the influence and power of organized crime. A good first step would be to tax and regulate marijuana. Doing so would create tax revenues for government, cause a massive decrease in profits for organized criminal groups, and result in savings to society and government of billions annually. A further benefit would be the regulation of a currently unregulated marketplace, complete with age limits and reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.

Currently, marijuana offences comprise more than three-quarters of all drug crimes. This drains police resources that are better spent elsewhere. Under a regulated market, police would have resources freed up to investigate violent crimes and property offences. This benefits us all. Bill C-15 does nothing to address this problem. Indeed, it makes it worse.

Passing C-15 would be costly and dangerous to Canadians and Canadian society. There is no research or experience that demonstrates this legislation will do anything else. I urge you to prevent the passage of this bill by whatever means possible. Don’t endanger Canadians. Don’t vote for C-15.

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