Pubdate: Thu, 19 Mar 2009
Source: Orangeville Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 Orangeville Citizen
Author: Jacob Hunter, Kirk Tousaw


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 nontotalitarian 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 streetlevel 
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.

Jacob Hunter,  Kirk Tousaw,  ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart