Welcome to the Shroomery Message Board! You are experiencing a small sample of what the site has to offer. Please login or register to post messages and view our exclusive members-only content. You'll gain access to additional forums, file attachments, board customizations, encrypted private messages, and much more!
U.S. considers tighter borders if Canada eases drug penalties
Frances Bula CanWest News Service
Friday, May 02, 2003
VANCOUVER -- Canada and B.C. are heading for major trouble with their drug policies, which will likely force the U.S. to tighten border controls to prevent increased drug trafficking, a U.S. drug office representative warned Thursday.
The warning comes as Canada is on the point of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and Vancouver is on the verge of opening North America's first injection site for drug users, as part of its plan to improve health care and treatment for addicts.
The initiatives have provoked dismay among U.S. officials fighting the war on drugs, as American media have recently started to focus on the Vancouver initiative, as well as on Canada's plans for a new drug policy.
"This is a critical juncture for Canada," said David Murray, special assistant in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who flew to Vancouver for a day of meetings with local police, health groups, municipal politicians, and media to talk about U.S. and Canadian drug policy. He said the decriminalization initiative "is a matter we look upon with some concern and some regret."
Murray emphasized it's up to Canadians to make their own decisions, but he warned that if Canada decriminalizes marijuana, as Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien said publicly for the first time this week that his government will do, the existing harmony between the two countries will be ruptured.
"I think the loss of the mutual co-operative partnership we've had with Canadians regarding our borders, regarding the integrity of the hemisphere, regarding our commerce, regarding the implications of trade and value to ourselves, the loss of that would be something truly to be regretted," said Murray, who repeatedly referred to the "unintended consequences" the new drug policies would bring.
"We would have no choice but to respond. My impression is the first concern is what is coming in to our country. How do we examine, how do we understand and how do we try to prevent the flood of illicit substances that we currently cooperatively try to manage with Canadian contribution? Clearly, there would be a concern on our part that we must respond to that development."
Murray said that if Canada moves to decriminalize, it will find more young people will use it, police resources will be strapped, and the most vulnerable minority communities will be the most negatively affected by the increased accessibility.
Murray was also critical of Vancouver's four-pillars drug policy, saying it was modelled after the Swiss four-pillars policy, which has its problems.
"I think there are far more serious difficulties with the Swiss model than has been fully acknowledged," he said. "My impression is that there will be unintended consequences and that the presumed benefits will turn out to be illusory. It is something that is less likely to be satisfying because it will not deliver on the promises on which it was sold."
Health advocates have argued for years that injection sites help prevent overdose deaths and infections, keeping addicts alive so that they can eventually make it to treatment. They also say the evidence from existing injection sites in Europe shows that injection sites, because they're "low threshold" and non-judgmental, attract addicts to treatment in a way that abstinence-based approaches don't.
Mayor Larry Campbell, who was in Ottawa Thursday meeting with cabinet ministers and health officials to get support for Vancouver's drug strategy and its plan to open the injection site within the next three months, dismissed Murray's criticisms and said that "in the coming years, the U.S. will probably want to emulate us."
But Murray said addicts just aren't capable of getting themselves into treatment and they need incentives, sometimes harsh ones, to push them there.
Although Murray's talk was billed as one that would be focused on treatment research, rather than politics, many of his points echoed those made by the head of the drug office, John Walters, when he spoke to the Vancouver Board of Trade last November.
Like Walters, Murray cited Baltimore and its "harm-reduction advocate mayor" as an example of the disastrous effects of a liberal approach to drugs. He said Baltimore, which introduced a needle exchange under Mayor Karl Schmoke, ended up with more drug use, more trafficking, middle-class flight from the city, and job losses that no other American city experienced.
He also emphasized the dangers of marijuana, saying it is much more potent than it was 30 years ago, that it is tied in to the marketing of other drugs and that it acts as the first step in the ladder to those drugs.
Murray, a social anthropologist by training, also said that drug marketing and use in the 20th and 21st centuries is vastly different from any kind of drug use seen in previous cultures because it has been so intensely marketed.
Asked for evidence that the U.S. approach to drugs is effective or better than other approaches, Murray said it's difficult to compare countries because they have different demographic make-ups and cultures that affect drug use