Home > Authors, Culture, Health > The real harm in the war on drugs

The real harm in the war on drugs

Where are the artists and writers in the Occupy movement? Whether it’s in New York, London or Toronto, the creative workers whose images and ideas both reflect and define society’s truths, are notable by their absence.

Does this mean the Occupy movement — disorganized and disparate as it is — lacks worthwhile purpose and goals? No,  because the reduction of social and economic injustice has always been at the heart of great literature.

In Canada, Margaret Atwood became the focal point of protest against closing public libraries in Toronto. She simply gave a few interviews, urged people to sign a petition, and the response was so overwhelming that the Ford Brothers soon backed off their “gravy train” blather.

Here’s another issue that writers and artists could put their efforts toward: reform of the country’s drug laws. The timing is right. There’s no more costly or socially harmful policy than our existing laws covering both soft and hard drugs. Neil Reynolds of The Globe and Mail has an eloquent call for reform here.

For an expert’s view, one has the work of the noted American jurist, James Gray, in his Temple University book:

Gray, a  California Superior Court judge, warned as long ago as 1992 that “our country’s attempt through the criminal
justice system to combat drug use and abuse, and all of the crime and misery that accompany them” was not working.

Judge Gray examines practically every aspect of the drug dilemma, but his major conclusion is that the so-called “war on drugs” will never be won. You have to get the profit motive out of it first. That means legalization, with appropriate regulations and precautions. We need to do as the Americans have done in Iraq – declare victory and get out.

My own view (expressed today in the Globe and Mail) is that the crimes committed by addicts to fund their illegal drug habits cause far greater harm to society than their usage of the drugs. Legalization, with all the attendant regulations and medical provisions that would go with it, would offer a far more humane and economical outcome.

If one were to set out to devise a policy to create maximum social harm with the greatest waste of taxpayers’ money, one could do no better than copy our present drug laws. They are the result of several generations of bunkum law and order propaganda entirely lacking in scientific credence. Their most notable achievement has been the entrenchment of a murderous, and immensely profitable, illegal drug trade.

Any government which continues to cling to the war on drugs is, in effect, making war on all its people, addicts or not.

The PBS network recently ran the wonderful Ken Burns series on Prohibition in the United States. That was a noble but failed experiment to eliminate a particular drug and it had to be finally abandoned. I wonder how many people,watching that series, came to the same conclusion about today’s war on drugs?

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