Pubdate: Mon, 02 Oct 2000
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: The Vancouver Sun 2000
Page: A14
Contact:  200 Granville Street, Ste.#1, Vancouver BC V6C 3N3
Fax: (604) 605-2323
Author: Wade C. MacGregor, Dean Reimer, Warren O'Briain


When a police officer says that legalization of drugs would be bad for the
country, he (or she) should be heard as saying that legalization would be
bad for the police.

For high-ranking police, existing drug laws provide an excuse for empire
building. Because the war on drugs is capable of absorbing almost infinite
resources, its continuation means more manpower and higher budgets, and a
higher profile and salary for the top cops.

For front-line policemen, narcotics enforcement is more glamerous and
interesting  than most other areas of police work.

The war on drugs provides a wonderful excuse for restricting civil liberties
and reducing or eliminating the application of all those bothersome rules
designed  to protect the innocent from police overzealousness, which the
police see as preventing them from doing their jobs properly.

Wade C. MacGregor, Summerland

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The reason drugs suck the life out of people is largely because of their
illegal nature: Addicts are reluctant to get the help they need.
Unfortunately, I think it will be a long time before the U.S. admits defeat
in the drug war, and it is not practical for Canada to legalize or
decriminalize drugs on its own (with the possible exception of marijuana).

Since Canada does not have the climate to support a legal industry growing
coca or opium poppies, the product would still have to come from places like
Colombia. And if it can get into Canada legally, smuggling operations will
simply move to the Canada/U.S. border. I would rather not see a patrolled
fence along the world's longest undefended border.

With so much money at stake, the kingpins of the drug industry have a vested
interest in keeping the trade illegal. It is entirely possible organized
crime will take steps to ensure that no one wants to be in the legitimate
drug retailing business, keeping distribution on the black market. However,
if a fraction of the resources used in the drug war were used to fight
organized crime, this could be dealt with.

Dean Reimer, Burnaby

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All of us in Vancouver are living with the collateral damage associated with
the War on Drugs: loved ones lost to addictions and overdose; some of the
worst recorded HIV rates in the industrialized world; an exploding hepatitis
C epidemic; drug-related property crime and public nuisance. Fighting wars
that cannot be won is hugely expensive for taxpayers and places ideology
ahead of pragmatism.

Why are we allowing U.S. ideology to dictate a domestic approach to
addictions that is hugely costly in human terms, and makes no sense
economically? Why didn't we learn our lesson when alcohol prohibition on
this continent failed in a blaze of unprecedented violence and corruption?

Congratulations to The Sun for daring to take a closer look at the War on
Drugs. Perhaps Dan Gardner's series will help push decision-makers to look
to other parts of the world that take more effective, less costly approaches
to reducing drug-related property crime and public nuisance, and improving
the lives of those who use drugs.

Warren O'Briain, Vancouver 
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