Legalize, regulate, provide treatment

July 20, 2010

in Law, Politics, Rants

Just as XUP is pointing out how it makes sense to legalize and regulate prostitution, The Economist is making that case for gambling. Of course, the argument works for drugs too – better to have their production and distribution legal and regulated by the state than criminalized, marginalized, and ultimately more harmful. All of these activities will inevitably cause some level of suffering, but their treatment as criminal offences simply serves to increase how much of that arises. This is unescapable, since those involved in criminal activities have no recourse to police protection and assistance, safety and quality control will always be poor, and criminalizing ‘vices’ puts an unsustainable and inappropriate burden on the justice system.

One further measure I would suggest is that producers of drugs – and purveyers of sex and gambling – should have to pay taxes on their revenues that are devoted specifically to helping people who are addicted to their wares. The treatment options provided should be based on the best available medical evidence, and be run by organizations at arms length from both the companies and the government (to avoid the kind of political bickering threatening Vancouver’s InSite harm reduction project). The taxes should be set at a level that ensures that anybody who wants to get treatment is able to do so for as long as they need it.

Humans have many weaknesses, with addictions among the most serious. By legalizing and regulating drugs, gambling, and prostitution, the harm associated with these activities can be minimized. At the same time, the reality that many people cannot overcome addictions on their own must be recognized through the provision of effective and accessible treatment.

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{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan July 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Budget woes could also provide a boost to legalization efforts. California is currently considering becoming the world’s first jurisdiction to treat marijuana like alcohol:

Legally, California has also been a pioneer, at least within America. In 1996 it was the first state to allow marijuana to be grown and consumed for medicinal purposes. Since then, 13 states and the District of Columbia have followed, and others are considering it. But this year California may set a more fundamental, and global, precedent. It may become the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise, regulate and tax the consumption, production and distribution of marijuana.

Other Western countries—from Argentina to Belgium and Portugal—have liberalised their marijuana laws in recent decades. Some places, such as the Netherlands and parts of Australia, have in effect decriminalised the use of cannabis. But no country has yet gone all the way.

Several efforts are under way in California to do exactly that. One is a bill wending its way through the state legislature that would essentially treat marijuana like alcohol, making it legal for people aged 21 and over. Sponsored by Tom Ammiano, a flamboyant gay activist and assemblyman from San Francisco, it would levy a $50 excise tax on every ounce produced and a sales tax on top, then use those funds for drug education. A rival bill would de-penalise (as opposed to legalise) marijuana, so that getting caught with it would be no worse than receiving a parking ticket.

R.K. July 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Perhaps prostitution deserves to be in a special category.

When someone chooses to gamble or use drugs, they are the only person directly affected. Though it can obviously affect family members and society generally when done excessively.

With sex work, however, there is always a person being exposed to various kinds of personal danger. Arguably, that is their choice to make, but strong controls need to exist to prevent people from being compelled or tricked into the industry, and good options for getting out must be provided.

Scatter July 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm
. July 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

“W.I. Thomas, an early-20th-century American sociologist, argued that a taste for risk is essential to human development. He believed that the gambling instinct “is born in all normal persons. It is one expression of a powerful reflex, fixed far back in animal experience. The instinct is, in itself, right and indispensable.” A psychologist of the same period, Clemens France, saw similarities between gambling and faith: both expressed a need for reassurance, order and salvation.

Those theorists were writing about gambling as a pastime, but for some people it is much more than that. In the 1960s and 1970s excessive gambling began to be seen as a medical problem. Robert Custer, an American psychiatrist, argued that gambling could be just as addictive as alcohol and drugs, and indeed substance abusers gamble to excess more often than others. About three-quarters of problem gamblers suffer from depression, and quite a few attempt suicide. Mr Custer’s fieldwork showed that pathological gamblers were often gregarious, clever and generous but also impulsive, anxious and restless, looking for instant gratification.

As with many aspects of psychiatry, the study of gambling has moved from mind to brain. A 1989 study conducted by Alec Roy, a psychiatrist, found that chronic gamblers had low levels of norepinephrine, a chemical secreted by the brain at times of stress or excitement. This seemed to suggest that such people gamble for the thrill of action. A more recent study by Henry Chase and Luke Clark at the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at Cambridge University found that near misses and wins in gambling produce similar responses in the brain.”

Sarah July 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but wouldn’t the people who currently operate illegally continue to do so & not pay the taxes, thus undercutting the legal operators? An illegal gambling operation would pay out more on your bets because there wouldn’t be the tax, & illegal prostitution and drugs would be cheaper than the legal versions. If the concern is that drugs & gambling are addictive behaviours then I am doubtful that the consumers would want to pay more than necessary for those services.

Milan July 21, 2010 at 6:26 pm

As with cigarettes, there will probably always be some smuggling and tax evasion if drugs and prostitution are legalized and regulated. That said, I expect that most people would opt for a safe regulated option, given the opportunity.

XUP July 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Isn’t gambling already legalized and regulated in that our governments run, tax and collect huge revenues from all the gambling in this country? I believe they even use some of that money for gambling addiction treatment. They’re also thinking of going into the online gaming business last I heard.

Milan July 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Gambling is largely legalized and regulated in Canada, yes. The argument that gambling, drugs, and prostitution should all be treated in a similar manner is meant to be internationally applicable, and not restricted to the Canadian circumstance.

I do wish government-run gambling was a bit more honest, though. As soon as governments get hooked on revenue from things like lotteries, they develop an incentive to trick people into thinking winning is likely. The British Columbian 6/49 lottery certainly uses misleading advertising.

. July 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm

“Money taken from the general population and used by the government as it sees fit is also known by another name. Henry Fielding hit upon it in his ballad-opera “The Lottery”, written in 1731: “A Lottery is a Taxation,/Upon all the Fools in Creation;/And Heav’n be praised,/It is easily raised,/Credulity’s always in Fashion:/For, Folly’s a Fund,/Will Never Lose Ground,/While Fools are so rife in the Nation.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2006 American lotteries generated nearly $17 billion in revenue for state governments. The chance of winning the Mega Millions jackpot is about one in 176m. For comparison, an individual’s chance of being struck by lightning is around one in 750,000.

And if lotteries are a tax, they suffer from being regressive. A study carried out in 2009 by Theos, a British think-tank, found that poor Britons spent a greater part of their income on lottery tickets, particularly scratch cards, than rich ones. In South Carolina, households with incomes of less than $40,000 a year account for 28% of the state’s population but more than half of its frequent lottery players.

More than one American in five thinks that buying lottery tickets constitutes a sound retirement plan, according to a Tax Foundation study. And research carried out by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis in seven American states found that much of the money spent on lottery tickets came from some form of government assistance (such as social security, unemployment or disability benefit).

Buying a lottery ticket may be a foolish bet, but given that people are so willing to play, it is unrealistic to ask governments not to back the game. European enthusiasm for lotteries has already led Française des Jeux, Camelot and MUSL, which runs Mega Millions and Powerball, to start planning for a global lottery, with a tentative launch date of 2012.”

XUP July 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

I did a post once on how our governments are targeting the poor to drain their pockets with promises of “living the dream” and “imagining the possibilities” – both with lotteries and casinos. Then they use that money to fund programs that they used to be able to fund out of taxes. The government might as well get into the recreational drug business and promise the poor and vulnerable “an end to all their troubles” and “happy, happy days” with the same warm and fuzzy ads they use to advertise their gambling interests.

Byron Smith July 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Lottery is a tax on those who are bad at mathematics.

Sounds like this is also an argument about our other socially destructive addictions, like fossil fuels… (and caffeine? ;-))

Milan July 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Nobody uses fossil fuels because they are addicted to the carbon content. They would be just as happy with energy that comes from a cleaner source.

As such, the solution to our fossil fuel addiction is to deploy zero-carbon energy sources, probably while decreasing our total energy consumption.

Byron Smith July 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Sure, and few of those who visit prostitutes are addicted to sex. It is a metaphor.

We are “addicted” to cheap, easily transportable energy.

Milan July 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Well, fossil fuels are already both legal and regulated.

More regulation would be a good idea. So would ‘treatment programs’ for those who want to give them up.

. July 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm

“Many still dislike the idea of governments encouraging citizens to gamble. Yet regulating something is not the same as encouraging it. Better to treat gambling in the same way as smoking: legalise it but make the casinos display the often-dismal odds of success (one in 176m, if you hope to win America’s richest lottery) in the same way that cigarette packets warn you about cancer. That would favour games of skill over the mindlessness of slot machines. People always will bet. Better that they do so in a legal market—and know the form.”

. September 29, 2010 at 10:18 am

Incredibly depressing Mega Millions Lottery simulator

Mark Frauenfelder at 9:21 AM Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010

Rob Cockerham of Cockeyed.com created the “incredibly depressing Mega Millions Lottery simulator.” He says, “You’ll be able to try the same numbers over and over, simulating playing twice a week for a year or 10. You’ll never win.”

“In the 191,904 times this simulation has run, players have won $19,126. And by won I mean they have won back $19,126 of the $191,904 they spent (9%).”

I played 1040 games of Mega Millions. I spent $1040. I won $117.

. October 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm

So permissive when it comes to lethal weapons, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the prohibition of drugs, in the face of all the evidence that this policy fails to curb their consumption while creating vast profits for organised crime. It is welcome that California is now debating before a referendum on November 2nd, whether to legalise marijuana. This newspaper would vote for the proposition, because we believe that drug addiction, like alcoholism and tobacco consumption, is properly a matter of public health rather than the criminal law.

If California votes in favour of legalisation, Mexico would be wise to follow suit (the bottom would anyway fall out of its marijuana business). The drug gangs would still be left with more lucrative cocaine and methamphetamines. But it would become easier to defeat them. And Mexicans should make no mistake: they must be defeated. The idea of going back to a tacit bargain that tolerates organised crime, favoured by some in Mexico, is inimical to the rule of law, and thus to democracy and a free society. The sooner Mexico turns its new-found sense of urgency into a more effective national policing and law-enforcement strategy the better.

Milan October 22, 2010 at 5:46 pm

While I think the basic message in that Economist article is sound, I also think it’s weird that they think alcoholism and ‘tobacco consumption’ are not part of the category ‘drug addiction’.

Not only are alcohol and tobacco clearly drugs, they are also more dangerous than some of the recreational drugs that are currently criminalized.

Byron Smith October 22, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Or caffeine? ;-)

(Yes, it’s not as dangerous as alcohol or tobacco, but it’s still a legal addictive substance whose overuse has significant long term health effects).

Milan October 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I do think there is a distinction with caffeine.

People can be so seriously addicted to alcohol and tobacco that it is impossible for them to quit. With caffeine, you might have some problems for a few days, but it isn’t outside of anyone’s power to escape, as a drug dependence goes.

Byron Smith October 22, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Yes, you’re right. The addiction is mild. I was just yanking your chain. :-)

Milan October 22, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I think it’s important to explain why caffeine is in a different category.

When people addicted to illegal drugs are called ‘drug addicts’ and those addicted to legal drugs are called ‘alcoholics’ or simply ‘smokers’ it may be an inappropriate differentiation. Yes, ‘drug addicts’ are both addicts and law breakers, but drug laws are pretty arbitrary. They are based more on historical accident than on how harmful drugs are, to either individuals or society.

As such, it seems inappropriate to draw a sharp moral line between someone who is psychologically dependent on marijuana and someone who is psychologically dependent on alcohol.

Byron Smith October 22, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Yes, I agree.

. October 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Drugs and security in North America
Mexican waves, Californian cool
Three things to stop the gangs: better police in Mexico, stricter gun laws in America and legal pot in California

Oct 14th 2010

So permissive when it comes to lethal weapons, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the prohibition of drugs, in the face of all the evidence that this policy fails to curb their consumption while creating vast profits for organised crime. It is welcome that California is now debating before a referendum on November 2nd, whether to legalise marijuana. This newspaper would vote for the proposition, because we believe that drug addiction, like alcoholism and tobacco consumption, is properly a matter of public health rather than the criminal law.

If California votes in favour of legalisation, Mexico would be wise to follow suit (the bottom would anyway fall out of its marijuana business). The drug gangs would still be left with more lucrative cocaine and methamphetamines. But it would become easier to defeat them. And Mexicans should make no mistake: they must be defeated. The idea of going back to a tacit bargain that tolerates organised crime, favoured by some in Mexico, is inimical to the rule of law, and thus to democracy and a free society. The sooner Mexico turns its new-found sense of urgency into a more effective national policing and law-enforcement strategy the better.

. October 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Like the Tax, Control, and Regulate Cannabis Act of 2010, the earliest moves to outlaw cannabis took place at the state level—in California, no less. And like today’s movement for legalization, the push to ban marijuana revolved around fears of Mexicans.

The idea of prohibition first took hold around the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, which drove waves of poor immigrants north into the Western United States. Along with their willingness to pick beets and cotton for pitifully low wages, the newcomers brought a penchant for smoking a peculiar sort of cigarette. At the time, cannabis was virtually unknown as an intoxicant among the Anglo-American population, writes Dale Gieringer, the California state director of the National Campaign for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Aside from a few accounts of hash houses in New York and travelers who had visited the hashish-loving regions of the Middle East, there is next to no record of pot’s recreational use in America before the 20th century.

Criminalizing marijuana, then, was a way of criminalizing Mexicans: a kind of stoner’s Jim Crow. And state lawmakers who favored the policy weren’t exactly shy about their agenda. “All Mexicans are crazy,” said one Texas legislator during the floor debate over marijuana criminalization in his state, “and this stuff is what makes them crazy.” Or as an advocate of Montana’s first anti-marijuana law said in his state legislature: “Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona.” California’s 1913 law against pot—one of the first such statutes in the nation—banned “preparations of hemp, or loco-weed.”

Byron Smith November 1, 2010 at 7:08 am
. November 1, 2010 at 11:38 am

MCDA modelling showed that heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals (part scores 34, 37, and 32, respectively), whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others (46, 21, and 17, respectively). Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places.

. December 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm

“Drugs are valuable because you can’t get them without breaking the law,” Milgrim said.

“I thought they were valuable because they worked.”

“They have to work,” said Milgrim, “but the market value is about prohibition. Often they cost next to nothing to make. That’s what it all runs on. They work, you need them, they’re prohibited.”

Gibson, William. Zero History. p.100 (hardcover)

. January 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Violence related to drug-trafficking in Mexico killed 15,273 people in 2010, the government said, up from 9,616 the previous year. See article

. January 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Here’s a good Boston Globe report on the first decade of Portugal’s bold experiment with drug decriminalization and increased treatment. Ten years ago, Portugal — whose drug problem had been spiraling out of control — decided to treat drug addiction as a public health matter, not as a criminal matter. They decriminalized possession of drugs, and increased treatment available to addicts, and experienced an immediate, dramatic and sustained drop in negative effects from drug use — though the use of some drugs went up.

. February 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Let them chew coca
Beware talk of victory in Latin America’s drug wars

LOOKED at in one way, Mexico’s drug warriors have cause for satisfaction. Over the past year or so its security forces have captured or killed 20 of the three dozen leaders of the cartels which dominate the business of supplying cocaine to the many Americans who like to consume it. The latest to fall was a founder of the Zetas, a particularly vicious mob, arrested this week. Until recently the drug barons could rely on tip-offs from corrupt police commanders, which is why they were able to turn parts of northern Mexico into private fiefs. Nowadays when the United States passes on real-time intelligence on the mobsters, the Mexicans—frequently marines, but sometimes even the federal police—tend to nab their man.

That counts as progress. But it has come at a fearsome cost. Taking out the capos unleashes bloody turf wars. With over 15,000 killed, 2010 was by far the bloodiest year in Mexico since Felipe Calderón took office as president in December 2006 and launched his crackdown on the drug gangs. Officials argue that the death toll has begun to fall, that nearly all of the dead are gangsters, and that the killings are confined to a few hot spots. But it is too early to conclude that the fall marks a turning-point. And the government’s critics point out that a worrying number of the victims have been innocent bystanders. As the violence spreads to previously calm areas, the average Mexican feels less safe. Public support for Mr Calderón’s crusade is flagging and the gains he has made may yet be lost.

. February 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm

The RCMP raid – the third in a decade – came late Friday afternoon, but two members of the North Island Compassion Club deny police allegations that the Courtenay-based marijuana dispensary is a front for illegal drug dealing. Bill Myers and Ernie Yacub, the club’s long-time manager, were arrested on the weekend and police have recommended they be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking marijuana. Both deny the allegations, saying the club is strictly for users of medical marijuana.

“There is absolutely no illegal drug dealing going on, none, and I can verify that,” said Mr. Myers, 56. “We dispense medical marijuana to people who really need it, and both Ernie and I spend enough time with everybody to know if they’re coming in on a straight edge.”

RCMP executed a search warrant on the society’s Sixth Street headquarters around 4 p.m. Friday, arresting Mr. Yacub, Mr. Myers and two other club members who were questioned and released without charges.

Police seized several pounds of dried marijuana, as well as unspecified quantities of cookies, hashish and cash.

“We recognize there are conflicting views on the medicinal value of marijuana but it remains illegal to sell in the manner in which they were conducting business,” said Comox Valley RCMP Constable Tammy Douglas.

The investigation was triggered by complaints “from neighbours, from Crime Stoppers and from the city,” Constable Douglas said, noting that RCMP have raided the club on two previous occasions in its 10-year history.

. March 3, 2011 at 12:12 am

THIS week’s Economist-YouGov poll contains some exciting news for devotees of the weed. A huge majority of Americans, more than two to one once don’t knows have been excluded, support the legalisation and taxation of marijuana. Even without excluding the don’t knows, a clear majority favours treating the drug equivalently to tobacco and alcohol.

. March 8, 2011 at 8:12 am

This is the first ranking based upon scientific evidence of harm to both individuals and society. It was devised by government advisers – then ignored by ministers because of its controversial findings

1: Heroin (Class A)
ORIGIN: Vast majority comes from poppy fields of Afghanistan
MEDICAL: Sedative made from the opium poppy. Can be smoked or injected to produce a ‘rush’. Users feel lethargic but experience severe cravings for the drug
NO. OF UK USERS: 40,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 744
STREET VALUE: £30-100 a gram
DANGER RATING: 2.75/3

2: Cocaine (Class A)
ORIGIN: Made from coca shrubs from Colombia and Bolivia
MEDICAL: Stimulant made from leaves of the coca bush. Increases alertness and confidence but raises heart rate and blood pressure and users will crave it
NO. OF UK USERS: 800,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 147
STREET VALUE: £30-55 a gram
DANGER RATING: 2.25/3

5: Alcohol (Legal)
ORIGIN: Brewed across the world in many different forms
MEDICAL:Central nervous system depressant used to reduce inhibitions and increase sociability. Increasing doses lead to intoxication, coma and respiratory failure
NO. OF UK USERS: Most adults
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 22,000
STREET VALUE: £2.25 pint of lager
DANGER RATING: 1.85/3

8: Amphetamines (Class B)
ORIGIN: Synthetic stimulants snorted, mixed in drink or injected
MEDICAL:Man-made drugs that increase heart rate and alertness. Users may feel paranoid. Newer form, methamphetamine, is addictive
NO. OF UK USERS: 650,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 33
STREET VALUE: £2-10 a gram
DANGER RATING: 1.70/3

9: Tobacco (Legal)
ORIGIN: Most of the leaf comes from the Americas
MEDICAL: Contains nicotine, a fast-acting stimulant which is highly addictive. Tobacco causes lung cancer and increases the risk of heart disease
NO. OF UK USERS: 12.5m
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 114,000
STREET VALUE: £4.50 a packet
DANGER RATING: 1.65/3

11: Cannabis (Class C)
ORIGIN: Plant is easily cultivated in temperate climates
MEDICAL: Leaves of the cannabis sativa plant or resin can be smoked or eaten. It is a relaxant but stronger forms can also cause hallucinations and panic attacks
NO. OF UK USERS: 3m
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 16
£40-100 an ounce
DANGER RATING: 1.40/3

12: Solvents (Legal)
ORIGIN: Organic compounds found in glues, paints, lighter fluid
MEDICAL: Includes glue, gas lighters, some aerosols and paint thinners. Produces euphoria and loss of inhibitions but can cause blackouts and death
NO. OF UK USERS: 37,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 53
STREET VALUE: £9.99 a tin of paint
DANGER RATING: 1.35/3

14: LSD (Class A)
ORIGIN: Hallucinogenic, synthetic drug more popular in 1960s
MEDICAL: Man-made drug that has a strong effect on perception. Effects include hallucinations and loss of sense of time. A ‘bad trip’ can cause anxiety
NO. OF UK USERS: 70,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: N/A
STREET VALUE: £1-5 a tab
DANGER RATING: 1.25/3

18: Ecstasy (Class A)
ORIGIN: Synthetic drug in tablets; popular in dance scene
MEDICAL: MDMA or similar man-made chemicals. Causes adrenaline rushes and feelings of wellbeing but also anxiety and high body temperature
NO. OF UK USERS: 800,000
NO. OF UK DEATHS IN 2004: 33
STREET VALUE: £1-5 a pill
DANGER RATING: 1.05/3

. March 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Sex trade workers voluntarily enter a world of violence, drugs and death and shouldn’t expect the state to keep them safe, the federal government will argue at a June showdown over the embattled prostitution laws. In a hard-line legal brief filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal, federal lawyers argue that prostitutes have no one to blame but themselves for choosing a profession that is fraught with danger.

“The law does not oblige individuals to engage in an activity that could risk their security,” it states. “It is the practice of prostitution in any venue, exaggerated by efforts to avoid the law, that is the source of the risk to prostitutes.”

The historic test case has burgeoned into a five-day appeal that will be heard by a special, five-judge panel. It will decide whether Madam Justice Susan Himel of Ontario Superior Court was correct last year when she struck down the laws governing pimping, keeping a brothel and communicating for the purposes of prostitution.

The federal brief insists that Judge Himel was wrong to suggest that individuals are entitled to engage in prostitution. It also says that Parliament “is not obliged to minimize hindrances and maximize safety for those that do so contrary to the law.”

However, sex trade workers and advocates will argue that since prostitution is legal, it is dangerously hypocritical to make it impossible for sex trade workers to work in safety.

dot April 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm
. April 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Globe Editorial
Marijuana should not be criminalized
From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2011 7:30PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2011 10:51PM EDT

It is hard to understand why Canada criminalizes marijuana. Make it illegal, sure – subject to a fine, as is wearing a face veil in France – but where is the high degree of harm, to others or self, that requires criminal sanction, including jail?
The criminal law is not meant to be used where a finger wag might do.
On one level, an Ontario court ruling this week striking down Canada’s marijuana laws was about medicinal users. The law was deemed unconstitutional because it obliges sick people to obtain a doctor’s approval for use, a procedure that doctors have largely boycotted, on the advice of their provincial associations and their insurer. Rather than work with physicians to meet their concerns, Health Canada had absolved itself of responsibility.
But the question that is impossible to avoid in the thorough, well-reasoned ruling by Mr. Justice D.J. Taliano, of the Superior Court, is: Why criminalize?
The Ontario Court of Appeal has previously accepted that marijuana consumption is “relatively harmless,” compared with hard drugs, tobacco or alcohol; that there is no hard evidence of irreversible organic or mental damage; that no evidence shows cannabis induces psychoses; that cannabis is not addictive; that marijuana use doesn’t cause criminality, doesn’t make people more aggressive or violent, and probably doesn’t lead to hard drug use; that there have been no recorded deaths from marijuana consumption; that it does not cause a “motivational syndrome”; and that, where the drug is decriminalized, consumption doesn’t increase wildly.

. April 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm

On Wednesday, civil servants refused to tip their hands as to which path they would follow this time. Political parties vying for power, however, suggested they were open to rewriting the rules.

The Public Prosecution Service, which must decide whether to appeal the case, declined to comment on what it would do. A spokeswoman for Health Canada said it was too soon to say what would happen.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, said plans to overhaul the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations were already being worked out.

“We are disappointed with this decision,” wrote Tim Vail, a spokesman for Tory Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, in an e-mail. “We are currently considering longer-term measures to reform the medical access program and its regulations.”

Mr. Vail refused to specify what those measures are.

The Liberals issued a similar response, reiterating their opposition to legalizing the drug, but leaving the door open to decriminalizing possession of small amounts and revisiting the regulations for medicinal users.

“We need to study the decision in more detail,” said party spokesman Michael O’Shaughnessy. “In government, we would work with the Department of Justice and Health Canada to see what could be done to ensure the system works efficiently for Canadians in need of this treatment.”

. April 14, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Making wine for alcoholics

GC and I made 4,000 bottles of wine yesterday. It’s for the Managed Alcohol Program at The Oaks, which is under the Shepherds of Good Hope umbrella. We’re the new volunteer assistant winemakers.

There’s a wine-making room on the premises, where they make the equivalent of 4,000 bottles every five weeks. Making the wine instead of buying it saves about $130,000 per year.

We empty nine 10-pound bladders of syrup into a 45-gallon drum, fill it with water, and sprinkle nine envelopes of yeast on top. Then we move on to the next drum. It’s sticky work, but easy. In five weeks we’ll filter it; they tell us that’s the hard part. (We won’t actually bottle it, by the way. It’s hooked up to a draft line, and will be on tap at the front desk, where it’s dispensed to residents.)

The residents are all formerly hardcore street-level alcoholics. These are the kind of alcoholics who might have drunk aftershave when the liquor stores were closed. Most of them are elderly and appear to have chronic health issues and disabilities in addition to alcoholism.

The program, which converted an old motel into a residential community, provides them with a room, meals, access to health care, social workers, exercise programs, homemade alcohol and rolled cigarettes.

. April 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm

The tobacco industry
The last gasp
For Big Tobacco, South-East Asia is the final frontier

STRICT regulation and the success of anti-smoking campaigns continue to hit tobacco firms’ revenues in rich countries. In the biggest developing countries—China and India—governments are keen to protect local firms from Western cigarette-makers. That leaves Big Tobacco with few large markets that have growth potential and a relative lack of regulation. And of these, South-East Asia looks the most promising over the coming decade.

Within this region, Indonesia (population 238m) and the Philippines (about 96m) are the golden geese. Indonesia, one of the world’s least regulated markets, is one of few Asian countries not to have ratified the World Health Organisation’s treaty on tobacco control. Cigarette advertising is rampant. One in four children aged 13-15 smokes. Last year, a YouTube video of a chain-smoking Indonesian two-year-old prompted outrage among health-lobby groups in the West.

. May 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Central America
The tormented isthmus
Big-time drug trafficking has arrived in Central America. Its poor, politically polarised countries must now try to cope

Apr 14th 2011 | GUATEMALA CITY, SAN JOSÉ AND TEGUCIGALPA | from the print edition

WHEN Eduardo’s father came back to Guatemala after a spell in the United States, the tattoos up his arms gave away his roots in the mara (gang). Before long a rival gang had planted a knife in his back; when that failed to kill him they returned to finish him off in the street near his home. Eduardo (not his real name) was only eight at the time. But to avenge his father he joined his gang as a sicario (hitman), and killed his father’s murderer. Eduardo is now trying to find out whether life can offer any of the happiness he says he has never known. Since January he has been studying computing with La Ceiba, an NGO. As for that murder: “I enjoyed it,” he says blankly.

The bullet scar on Eduardo’s chest and the beaten right arm hanging limply by his side are signs of the violence that has come to engulf Guatemala and much of the Central American isthmus. No region on earth is more routinely murderous. Guatemala’s rate of 46 murders per 100,000 people is more than twice as high as Mexico’s, and nearly ten times greater than that of the United States. Honduras and El Salvador—the other two countries that make up Central America’s “northern triangle”, as it is called—are more violent still (see chart in map). Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, the quietest members of the group, have also seen violence increase in recent years, as has Belize.

. May 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

The killings undermine the government’s claim that drug-war casualties are almost all criminals. Mexicans are tiring of this war without end. On April 6th there were protest marches in 21 states, following the suffocation with duct tape of seven youths in the formerly quiet city of Cuernavaca. Polls shows that for the first time under Mr Calderón worries about security trump those about the economy. Although cartel henchmen continue to fall—11 middle-ranking Zetas have been killed or captured this year—there is no shortage of new recruits. La Familia Michoacana, a gang that was virtually destroyed in January, announced its rebirth as the “Knights Templar” in March. From the ruins of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, smashed last year, have sprung two new upstarts.

. May 18, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Street alcohol program saves millions
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/mobile/iphone/story.html?id=4800619
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
By Kelly Egan, Ottawa Citizen

When nothing else works, give alcoholics a drink. Sometimes, it’s where you start.

As backward as it might sound, one of the city’s most innovative programs to help street drunks is the managed-alcohol program run jointly by the Shepherds of Good Hope and Ottawa Inner City Health Inc., which takes medicine to the needy, where they need it.

Chronic alcoholics, many of them with an underlying mental illness, are given a prescribed amount of alcohol each day, by the hour. In exchange, the roughly 50 clients get their own rooms, meals and 24-hour supervision in a building on Merivale Road called The Oaks.

Up close, it can be an unnerving experience. I have visited the Oaks and walked among the men who line up for wine, spending their days with a permanent buzz. The first reaction is: how is this helping anyone?

The answer, of course, is that the other way -under bridges, drinking rubbing alcohol, panhandling, stealing -is so much worse, and that this is a crowd that does not respond to typical treatment outreach. In addictions, nothing is simple.

Byron Smith May 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Revelant Avaaz campaign with half a million signatures so far calling for an end to the war on drugs.

Milan May 31, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Petitions seem unlikely to make that politically possible, though perhaps impoverished governments that want higher tax revenues and less prison spending will.

Byron Smith June 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

I humbly suggest you haven’t been paying attention to the work of Avaaz (and their partners in various nations: MoveOn, GetUp, 38 Degrees). They have truly achieved some stunning victories over the last couple of years. Not all by petitions, but by timely mobilisation of political pressure and creative engagement with public opinion. Check them out.

. June 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Global war on drugs has ‘failed’ say former leaders

The global war on drugs has “failed” according to a new report by group of politicians and former world leaders.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.

The panel includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

The White House rejected the findings, saying the report was misguided.

The 19-member commission includes the former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, the former President of Colombia Cesar Gaviria, and the current Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou.
Continue reading the main story
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The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won”

Global Commission on Drug Policy

The panel also features prominent Latin American writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, the EU’s former foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and George Schultz, the former US Secretary of State.

. June 3, 2011 at 10:19 am

The drug war comes full circle
Once again, former UN officials and world leaders have come forward to challenge the hopeless drug policies of current UN officials and world leaders, writes Dan Gardner
Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen
 

 
“We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself,” the letter began. Trying to stop the harms done by drug consumption by banning drugs had only succeeded in producing a massive international black market. “This industry has empowered organized criminals, corrupted governments at all levels, eroded internal security, stimulated violence, and distorted both economic markets and moral values.” These were not the consequences “of drug use per se, but of decades of failed and futile drug war policies.”
 
   “Mr. Secretary General,” the letter concluded, “we appeal to you to initiate a truly open and honest dialogue regarding the failure of global drug policies -one in which fear, prejudice, and punitive prohibitions yield to common sense, science, public health, and human rights.”
 
   The letter was signed by a remarkable list of eminent statesmen, officials, and intellectuals, including four former presidents from Latin America, Nobel laureates Milton Friedman and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, and former U.S. secretary of state George Shulz. But Annan must have been impressed by one signatory in particular. It was Javier Perez de Cuellar, former United Nations secretary general.

. June 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Ron Paul, Barney Frank team up to legalize marijuana

Here’s one of the strangest pairings of late in Congress: Reps. Ron Paul and Barney Frank are teaming up today on legislation that would legalize marijuana.

The legislation by Paul, a libertarian-thinking Texas Republican running for president, and Frank, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, is being touted by the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

The bill to be introduced by Frank and Paul would allow states to “legalize, regulate, tax and control marijuana without federal interference.”

Last year, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have allowed marijuana to be sold for recreational use. Voters in Colorado and Washington state could vote on the issue this year.

The Marijuana Policy Project highlights that 46.5% of Californians voted for Proposition 19. It also cites a report released this month by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that slammed the decades-old war on drugs and called on governments to take a look at decriminalizing marijuana and other drugs.

. July 3, 2011 at 10:39 am

Drug policy
Supply and demand
The argument over treatment is being won. Now for the battle over supply

Jun 2nd 2011 | MEXICO CITY | from the print edition

NARCOTICS liberalisation was once the cause of freethinkers and hippies. Now a more sober bunch is criticising the “war on drugs”. On June 2nd the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group including ex-presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Switzerland; the prime minister of Greece; a former secretary-general of the United Nations; and, from America, an ex-secretary of state and ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve, called for the decriminalisation of all drug taking, and for experiments in the legal regulation of the sale of drugs, starting with cannabis.

Calls for a rethink of the 50-year-old policy of prohibition have been growing. As the report pointed out, drug consumption has continued to rise, even as billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives have been spent trying to stamp it out. In the ten years to 2008, the most recent data available, the number taking cannabis worldwide increased by 8.5%, of cocaine by 27%, and of opiates by 34.5%. America’s federal government alone spent $15 billion in 2010 on drug control; perhaps $25 billion more went in other public spending.

Prohibition has brought many short-term wins but no lasting ones. The authorities drove cocaine smugglers out of the Caribbean in the 1980s. But they then popped up in Mexico. A campaign against “narcos” there has cost at least 35,000 lives in the past five years—and is driving them into the chaotic countries of Central America. Guatemalan officers found 27 headless bodies near the Mexican border last month, and blamed the Mexican Zetas “cartel”.

. July 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm
. August 5, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know. By Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken. Oxford University Press USA; 256 pages; $16.95. Buy from Amazon.com

THE war on drugs, like the war on terror, is proving a dear and dreary struggle against faceless enemies on shifting terrain. The latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), published on June 23rd, gives little reason to think it is being won.

In America, where cannabis consumption had been falling, the UNODC thinks it is staging a comeback, along with ecstasy. In western Europe use of cannabis is stable, but it has increased in eastern Europe and Latin America. In Asia synthetic stimulants are on the rise.

More illegal substances are produced in the country in which they are consumed, whether cannabis in London or ecstasy and crystal meth in Indonesia. Fast-changing designer drugs are marketed before regulators have figured out whether to outlaw them, and the line between using drugs to combat medical conditions and taking them simply to improve performance—in exams, sports or sex—is increasingly blurred. Against a backdrop of violence in producer countries such as Mexico and Colombia, and mass incarceration in consumer countries including America and Britain, the argument over what to do about drugs is escalating.

Mr Kleiman’s views on the great question of the day—whether drugs should be legalised—are nuanced. He appreciates that legalising drugs could reduce the violence surrounding the trade and the degradation of serious abusers, but values the role he thinks prohibition plays in limiting consumption. This paper has long advocated legalisation, but has never claimed it was a trouble-free decision. There is plenty of common ground with this thoughtful and clearly written book.

. October 18, 2011 at 8:54 pm

October 18, 2011, 6:49 pm
Gallup Poll is First to Find Plurality Support for Marijuana Legalization
By NATE SILVER

A Gallup poll released yesterday finds that 50 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana while 46 percent are opposed.

This represents something of a landmark — so far as I can tell, this is the first independent and scientific national survey to have found a plurality in support of legalizing marijuana. But let’s take a quick look at it in the context of other surveys on the question.

. November 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm
. November 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm

“Ottawa is not exactly embracing harm reduction, or evidence for that matter. Further, it seems to have not absorbed one of the most important lessons of the ruling, a reminder that governments are stewards and have a duty to act in ways that enhance the health of individuals and their communities – even when doing so is politically unpalatable.

There is some speculation that the court ruling will pave the way for supervised injection sites to open in other major cities with large populations of injection drug users, such as Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

But having the law and science on your side is not nearly enough.

You need money, you need the support of local public-health authorities, you need the backing of the provincial government (meaning a province willing to pick a fight with Ottawa at a time when federal health transfers are being negotiated). And you need to convince a skeptical public that you’re not wasting tax dollars coddling “junkies.” That’s not going to be easy to do at the best of times, let alone in the current “tough-on-crime,” recessionary atmosphere.

“Instead, the current government treats drug addiction not as a sickness but as a crime. It has chosen to spend dizzying amounts of money building prisons instead of investing in harm reduction, treatment and rehabilitation.

Prisons are not tools of prevention; on the contrary, they are places where addictions and needle-borne infectious diseases flourish.”

. November 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

VANCOUVER — Four former Vancouver mayors have endorsed a coalition calling for an end to pot prohibition in Canada that they blame for rampant gang violence.

Larry Campbell, Mike Harcourt, Sam Sullivan and Philip Owen all signed an open letter to politicians in B.C. Wednesday claiming a change in the law will reduce gang violence.

The former mayors support the position of the Stop the Violence BC coalition, which recently released a survey showing most B.C. residents favour an end to the current marijuana laws.

. November 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm

As for the rest, high-grade ecstasy is making a comeback (use fell in recent years when the purity fell too), at a price, and there is concern about anabolic steroids. But these are just the known drugs. Novel psychoactive substances, mainly stimulants and cannabinoids from China sold on the internet, proliferate too quickly for anyone to keep track of them (though websites such as Erowid.org make an impressive attempt). And the line between the optimistically-named “legal highs” and the illegal drugs whose effects they often mimic has been blurred.

Legal mephredone, for example, flourished when decent ecstasy was scarce until it too was banned in April 2010. It was still the club drug of choice in London last summer, says Fiona Measham, of the University of Lancaster. She reports the ubiquity now of cheap and cheerful “bubble” in north-west England: no one knows just what is in it and no one much cares. In Liverpool a powerful but legal cannabinoid called black mamba is all the rage, says Russell Newcombe of 3D Research, an independent researcher and consultant in the field.

. December 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm

FIVE years ago next week, Felipe Calderón took office as Mexico’s president and launched a crackdown against organised crime. Since then there has been a horrible predictability about the country’s drug war: each year the number of deaths has risen, most of them concentrated in a handful of cities. But this year both those tendencies look as if they have started to change. The annual death toll seems to have plateaued at around 12,000. Hotspots have cooled, only for violence to invade places previously considered safe.

Ciudad Juárez, in Chihuahua state and on the border with Texas, is the most striking example of this. For several years it has been the most dangerous place in Mexico and, by most counts, the world. A city of 1.3m, it saw more than 3,000 murders last year. Yet this year the number of mafia-related killings in Chihuahua has fallen by about a third, according to a tally by Reforma, a newspaper, as have kidnappings and car thefts. (The government has not released murder statistics in almost a year.) So far this year, Chihuahua state accounts for only around 15% of such murders in Mexico, down from a peak of 32%.

Milan December 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Doesn’t that seem essentially insane? That 12,000 people a year are dying in Mexico, largely as a result of the completely ineffective and morally unjustifiable ‘War on Drugs’?

. December 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm

. December 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

Tainted moonshine kills over 120 people in India

REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI — At least 40 more people reportedly died Thursday from drinking tainted bootleg alcohol in an unfolding tragedy in the Indian state of West Bengal that’s seen the number of deaths over the last three days top 120, with more expected given the dozens of patients in area hospitals in critical condition.

The state government promised to give $4,000 to each victim’s family, announced a criminal investigation and arrested seven people who allegedly sold the liquor, although those who manufactured it were reportedly on the run.

Indian television footage showed the corridor of a local hospital in Sangrampur, about 20 miles south of Kolkata, packed with patients poisoned by the moonshine, some shielded by family members to prevent their intravenous drips from being knocked out by passing crowds. Beside them in the hallway, corpses awaited removal, including one with a numbered sticker on the forehead.

. December 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm

The shadow of the criminal law still threatens a bad trip, however. In October, California’s four federal prosecutors threw the state (and drug-lovers everywhere in the country) into confusion when they announced their intention aggressively to go after landlords who rent their buildings to dispensaries of medical marijuana, and even after newspapers, radio and television stations who accept advertising from sellers of the weed. Those threats came after federal agents raided growers of cannabis in several Californian counties during the summer, destroying about half a million pot plants and arresting more than a hundred people. For the Obama administration, which had signalled early in its term that it would not enforce marijuana laws in states that took a lenient approach to cannabis, this crackdown amounts to a puzzling U-turn; lawsuits are already trying to block the crackdown.

. January 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Federal Liberals endorse marijuana legalization
Joan Bryden | The Canadian Press

They overwhelmingly approved Sunday a resolution calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana — a position immediately endorsed in principle by interim leader Bob Rae, although it remains to be seen how, or if, the resolution translates into a platform plank for the next election.

“Let’s face up to it, Canada, the war on drugs has been a complete bust,” Rae declared in a closing speech to a three-day Liberal renewal convention.

Until now, Liberals have called only for decriminalization of marijuana, as has the NDP. The new call to legalize it completely and regulate its production and sale, much as is done with alcohol, is in stark contrast to the governing Conservatives, who’ve included stiffer penalties for marijuana possession in their omnibus tough-on-crime bill.

. January 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

Gangster-nomics: the nasty business of criminalising drugs
Philip Soos | The Conversation

Criminalisation of drugs abrogates the fundamental principles of free markets, free trade, consumer sovereignty, individual liberties, small government and limited public expenditure – principles considered conservative. Yet it is the right wing that is most in favor of criminalisation that defiles their professed beliefs.

This is not a contradiction. The mainstream right-wing of today is not conservative, but rather, radical statist reactionaries who believe in a powerful and interventionist state to pursue a vicious class war against the public.

. February 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Timely letter from ex-attorneys-general in B.C. about need to legalize marijuana

The four former B.C. attorneys-general who spoke out this week for marijuana legalization, likening the current policy to U.S. Prohibition, have a point. Prohibition didn’t deter drinking and was a boon to organized crime. Sounds very much like the war on marijuana.

Attorneys-general occupy a privileged dual position – leaders in partisan politics while also being responsible for giving objective legal advice, and protecting the integrity of the legal system. If Geoff Plant, Graeme Bowbrick, Ujjal Dosanjh (also a B.C. premier) and Colin Gabelmann, who collectively prosecuted marijuana users for 15 years, don’t perceive a benefit, is there a benefit?

. February 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

Visit a rehab centre some time. You will learn two things inside that first hour. One, that there are people in this world who are more susceptible to addiction than others; there always have been, always will be, addicts. And two, that the “gateway” argument is as simplistic as it is spurious. We are not losing our kids to drugs. We have lost our kids because we haven’t the time, inclination, strength of character or political will to do the right thing in their name: to eliminate the black market that so mercilessly exploits them – and the runaway violence it spawns – by legalising, taxing and regulating the trade.

. February 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm

No jail time for ‘Sinful Sydnee’ — the Winnipeg mom who ran a brothel out of her home

By Mike McIntyre

WINNIPEG — A housewife who spent years working as a leather-clad dominatrix has been spared a jail sentence for turning her cozy, two-storey Winnipeg home into a brothel.

The 48-year-old married mother of two teens — known to her customers as “Sinful Sydnee” — pleaded guilty last year to the rare charge of keeping a common bawdy house.

Similar charges against her husband were dropped as part of the plea deal. Justice officials say the facts of this case make it one of a kind. Her real name is under a court-ordered publication ban to protect her children.

The woman returned to court for sentencing Wednesday and was given three years of probation and a $2,000 fine. The Crown had been seeking a jail term but conceded it could be served conditionally in the community.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/15/sinful-sydnee/

. March 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Should marijuana be taxed and regulated in Canada?

Public health doctors from across Canada are proposing decriminalizing marijuana and imposing taxation and regulation instead.

The chief medical health officers in three provinces published a paper Wednesday comparing Canada’s current illicit drug policies to those of other countries.

“For the last decade, Portugal has decriminalized all drug use and they have some of the lowest rates of drug use in Europe and they have some of the least amounts of harm from drug use,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical health officer, a co-author of the paper.

. March 31, 2012 at 6:58 pm

POLICE watched seven people sell drugs in Marshall Courts and Seven Oaks, two districts in south-eastern Newport News, in Virginia. They built strong cases against them. They shared that information with prosecutors. But then the police did something unusual: they sent the seven letters inviting them to police headquarters for a talk, promising that if they came they would not be arrested. Three came, and when they did they met not only police and prosecutors, but also family members, people from their communities, pastors from local churches and representatives from social-service agencies. Their neighbours and relatives told them that dealing drugs was hurting their families and communities. The police showed them the information they had gathered, and they offered the seven a choice: deal again, and we will prosecute you. Stop, and these people will help you turn your lives around.

This approach is known as drug-market intervention (DMI). It was first used in High Point, North Carolina, in 2004 and since then has been tried in more than 30 cities and counties. It is the brainchild of David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College in New York, who thinks that “the most troubled communities can survive the public-health and family issues that come with even the highest levels of addiction. They can’t survive the community impact that comes with overt drug markets”—by which he means markets that draw outsiders to the neighbourhood. Once these are entrenched, a range of problems follow: not just drug use and sales, but open prostitution, muggings, robberies, declining property values, and the loss of businesses and safe public spaces.

Traditional drugs policing targets both users and dealers. This poses three main problems. First, low-level dealers are eminently replaceable: arrest two and another two will quickly take their places, with little if any interruption to sales. Second, it tends to promote antagonism between the police and the mostly poor communities where drug markets are found. Arrests can seem random: only one in every 15,000 cocaine transactions, for instance, results in prison time, but those other 14,999 sales are just as illegal as that one. In some neighbourhoods, prison is the norm, or at least common, for young men. Police come to be seen as people who take sons, brothers and fathers away while the neighbourhood remains unchanged. Third, prison as a deterrent does not work. If it did, America would be the safest country on earth.

. September 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm

“Using heroin to treat heroin addicts

Until the 1960s, the ‘British model’ of managing heroin addiction, used in the UK, was for addicts to be registered with doctors and prescribed heroin itself. This is still sometimes seen as the best approach, and has made a comeback in recent years in Switzerland. Users are given a high-quality heroin which they inject with clean needles under medical supervision. There are signs that medicalising the whole experience has reduced some of the ‘rock star glamour’ of the drug and helped reduce its appeal among the young.”

Nutt, David. Drugs Without the Hot Air: Minimising the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs. p.164 (paperback)

. September 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

“Another thing we could do to learn more about new drugs as they appear is to set up a Drugs Information and Monitoring System (DIMS) like the one they have in the Netherlands, which is a fascinating example of applying common sense to drug use. Across the Netherlands there are a number of hospitals where drugs can be tested. Users can take their drugs to the centre knowing that they will not be arrested. After the tests they are given information on what the drug is, health and safety advice to help them decide whether to take it or not, and what to do if they get adverse effects. Not only does this offer an opportunity for harm prevention, but also the Dutch authorities get to know exactly what drugs are in circulation and where, and they catch ‘bad batches’ before they do too much damage.”

Nutt, David. Drugs Without the Hot Air: Minimising the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs. p.124 (paperback)

. October 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm

AS THE lunch break began one recent Wednesday at a packaging plant in the south-western city of Zunyi, dozens of employees made their way upstairs from the factory floor. Most walked past the ping-pong tables in the recreation area and straight on to the staff canteen. But several of them, including 31-year-old Wang Yiping, stopped briefly at the company’s dispensary, reaching through a grill for a small plastic cup, and gulped a carefully measured dose of methadone.

The privately owned factory is one of nearly 100 Guizhou enterprises taking part in the Sunshine Project, an innovative drug-rehabilitation programme run by the narcotics bureau of the provincial police department.

Methadone has been used in China for several years but, with its emphasis on employment rather than incarceration, humane rather than punitive treatment, and voluntary rather than compulsory participation, the Sunshine Project marks a departure from China’s traditionally stern approach to drug users. Since launching the project last year, Guizhou police officials claim to have achieved impressive reductions in the rates of crime and HIV infection among drug users. They also claim that relapse rates for the province’s recovering addicts are now far below national averages.

. November 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

B.C. pot activists push for legalization after Wash. vote

Pot advocates in B.C. say now that voters in Washington have passed a law to legalize possession of marijuana, it is time for a similar referendum here.

On Tuesday 55 per cent of voters in Washington State approved Initiative 502, legalizing the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by anyone over the age of 21.

The initiative also taxes and regulates the production and sale of cannabis, and makes it illegal to drive while under its influence.

. November 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Legalize Me, Tax Me, Protect Me

November 7, 2012

I am a sex worker, prostitute & whore, use whatever term suits your taste. Unfortunately my job is deemed illegal although; cigarettes & alcohol kill people its okay to “sin tax” these products. I don’t hurt anyone outside of an occasional ass slap all in good fun. I provide a stress relieving service that while most see it as a physical release, it is more involved then it appears on the surface.

I am basically a naked therapist, who happens to take the patient/therapist relationship to a sexual level. I know more about my clients families, jobs, children, hopes, fears & goals, in an hour session than any therapist could manage to find out in 6 months of weekly sessions. My job is to connect, break down boundaries & make my client feel on top of the world all in an hour and I’m good at it. I don’t understand why my job that I have chosen of my own free will is such an issue in the eyes of law makers, most of whom are consumers of escorts services.

. January 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm

But tobacco is a weirdly resilient industry. Consumption is shrinking in developed countries but still rising in poorer ones, thanks partly to their growing populations. As GDP rises, smokers trade up to more expensive brands. The number of cigarettes smoked globally will shrink by 9% between 2015 and 2050, predicts Euromonitor International, a market-research firm. But tobacco firms are adept at wringing fatter profits from stagnant markets.

Addicted customers and high taxes make it relatively easy to raise prices (a big rise for producers translates into a small uptick for consumers). Tobacco’s stigma keeps potential competitors at bay. BAT aims to raise its earnings per share annually by high single digits and often does better than that, partly by using its spare cash to buy back shares, points out Rae Maile of J.P. Morgan Cazenove. Philip Morris International, BAT’s bigger rival, has retired a quarter of its shares since 2008.

. January 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that sales of illegal cigarettes cost government—local, state and federal—nearly $10 billion a year. For the smugglers, profits are better than those from cocaine, heroin, marijuana and guns, according to a report in September by the Virginia State Crime Commission. Moreover, the penalty for doing it—a maximum of five years in jail, under federal law—is considerably lighter than for selling drugs. If the smugglers were trafficking in heroin, they would face life in prison.

. December 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm

HOW modern and liberated Germany’s Social Democrats and Greens sounded in 2001. They were in government and wanted to raise the legal and social status of prostitutes. So they enacted a law to remove the stigma from sex work by, for example, giving prostitutes full rights to health insurance, pensions and other benefits. “Exploiting” sex workers remained criminal, but merely employing them or providing them with a venue became legal. The idea was that responsible employers running safe and clean brothels would drive pimps out of the market.

Germany thus embarked on an experiment in liberalisation just as Sweden, a country culturally similar in many ways, was going in the opposite direction. In 1999 the Swedes had made it criminal to pay for sex (pimping was already a crime). By stigmatising not the prostitutes but the men who paid them, even putting them in jail, the Swedes hoped to come close to eliminating prostitution.

Prostitution seems to have declined in Sweden (unless it has merely gone deep underground), whereas Germany has turned into a giant brothel and even a destination for European sex tourism. The best guess is that Germany has about 400,000 prostitutes catering to 1m men a day. Mocking the spirit of the 2001 law, exactly 44 of them, including four men, have registered for welfare benefits.

. December 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Four supervised injection sites to open in Montreal

According to a report in La Presse, Montreal’s health and social services agency will submit a proposal asking for financing to the provincial government this week.

The sites will cost $2.7 million annually, but the city’s department of public health is confident that the health care system will benefit.

Richard Massé, director of Montreal Public Health, argues that though the venture seems expensive, the quality of life of for citizens living near these sites and for people who use intravenous drugs will be improved.

According to a report in La Presse, the sites will be downtown, as well as in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Centre-Sud neighbourhoods. The fourth with be a mobile site, travelling to different areas in the city.

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