Why Drug Prohibition Must Be Lifted

By Oscapella, Eugene | Canadian Speeches, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Why Drug Prohibition Must Be Lifted


Oscapella, Eugene, Canadian Speeches


Prohibition fosters crime, corruption and more evils

Drug prohibition laws foster crime, corruption, extreme violence, the consumption of more dangerous drugs, diminished civil liberties, and the impairment of democratic governments and their institutions. And in Canada no less than in other countries. From testimony to the Senate Committee on illegal Drugs, Ottawa, October 16, 2000. Edited for publication.

The current policy of criminal prohibition that forms the lynchpin of our current drug policies in this country, as in many other western countries, is the fundamental mistake we make. Drug policy reform in this country will have no possibility of succeeding as long as we retain prohibition as the lynchpin of drug policy.

In the United States, prohibition of alcohol did not work. It led to the consumption of more dangerous forms of alcohol. It led to tens of thousands of people going blind from alcohol poisoning. It led to tens of thousands of people dying from alcohol poisoning. It fostered organized crime and was one of the major impetuses for the growth of organized crime in the United States.

The prohibition of drugs is causing similar problems. Ask yourselves if the prohibition of drugs has stopped the flow of drugs into Canada. In its 1999 drug report, the RCMP suggested that the supply and demand for drugs was constant right now, but likely to increase in the near future. That report speaks of high purity levels of drugs coming into the country. A high purity level means essentially that there is a glut of drugs on the market. An organized crime agency in British Columbia suggested that there are about 10,000 marijuana-growing operations in British Columbia at present. A police blitz in April shut down about 89 of them. The vast majority of those operations still remain. The RCMP admit it is a very attractive way to make money and that even otherwise law-abiding citizens are quite content to get involved in this industry.

Have we stopped the supply of drugs in the country? No. That is painfully obvious. Prohibition has not stopped the supply of drugs, nor, I believe, has it even seriously dented the flow of drugs into this country. As a matter of fact, it has made it far more attractive to sell drugs, and it has given people far more powerful incentives to bring drugs into the country.

Just to look at the ingenuity of smugglers these days. Last month, inspectors cracked 174,000 duck eggs coming into this country and found that 1,700 contained heroin. That was a large heroin seizure, I think about 150 kilograms. Last month, forces in Colombia discovered a sophisticated submarine being constructed in Colombia, 200 miles away from the ocean. That submarine was capable of carrying 200 tonnes of cocaine. They think they had Russian engineers helping to build the submarine. The entire U.S. consumption of cocaine for one year is about 300 metric tonnes, so that submarine was capable of supplying about two-thirds of the U.S. cocaine habit for one year. The Colombians were going to transport the submarine to the ocean and use it as a supply vehicle.

The United Nations is winding down its efforts in Afghanistan to try to get farmers away from opium cultivation. The UN says that despite its efforts to convince Afghan farmers to switch to wheat and other food crops, Afghanistan remains by far the largest opium supplier in the world.

Even if we were to effect a major seizure of drugs, what are the police telling us? After the seizure of heroin by cracking 174,000 duck eggs, the Victoria police warned merchants in the area that that would cause a temporary shortage in the availability of the drug and would lead to an increase in crime because drug addicts, who are price-insensitive, will continue to want to get the drug and they will have to pay a higher price for it. They will have to commit more crimes in order to buy that drug. When we do manage to do something that may have an impact on the supply of drugs in the country, it actually creates more crime. …

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