http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/10/04/drug-strategy.html Tory anti-drug plan expected to be light on harm reduction
Last Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2007 | 8:24 AM ET
Activists and advocates from all corners of Canada's drug debate waited in anticipation Thursday for the federal Conservatives to announce a new $64-million anti-drug strategy.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper along with his ministers of health and public safety will be in Winnipeg to unveil the details of the plan, which is expected to be a two-pronged approach to tackle trafficking and help addicts kick the habit.'Marijuana won't kill you … the five million Canadians who use marijuana cherish it like Christians cherish their religion.'—Drug activist and 'Prince of Pot' Marc EmeryCritics in the addictions-treatment community have raised concerns the money being spent by the government will focus too much on anti-drug enforcement and leave out harm-reduction measures, such as safe-injection sites or needle-exchange programs.
But former Conservative MP Randy White, a strong supporter of the Conservative anti-drug program, told CBC News Thursday morning that with effective enforcement and prevention programs, harm reduction will receive less emphasis.
"Harm reduction was tried for the last decade on various expensive pilot projects, but really, harm-reduction doesn't get kids off of drugs and doesn't prevent kids from getting on drugs," said White, who is also the founder of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada.
"Now that we're looking at a better program of enforcement … and the kind of prevention programs we need, I think harm reduction is going by the wayside."
Some plans from Thursday's anti-drug announcement are expected to include:
John Borody of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said Thursday those plans don't seem to explicitly address harm reduction, which he argues is an essential part of any drug strategy.
- A crackdown on cross-border drug smuggling.
- The stiffening of penalties for drug dealers.
- $32 million devoted for treatment of drug users.
- $10 million to go toward a drug awareness campaign.
[h2]'The party's over'[/h2]
Last week, in a statement that characterized the tone of the anti-drug plans, Health Minister Tony Clement said the strategy would send the warning to illicit drug users that "the party's over."
Commenting on Clement's statement, Borody said the worry among harm-reduction advocates was that "the focus of the strategy is really going to be on enforcement, which I think is more of the south-of-the-border approach.
"[The Conservatives] have been pretty clear that prevention and treatment are there, they're on the table, so what we're hoping is it's not excluding harm reduction," Borody said.
He said for now, he'll wait to see how the $64 million will be split before deciding whether the government has missed the boat.
[h2]'We love marijuana'[/h2]
Meanwhile, Canada's so-called Prince of Pot — well-known Vancouver drug activist Marc Emery — added his voice to the discussion, saying he envisioned a national drug plan in which marijuana could be taxed, controlled and regulated in the same way as liquor is in provinces.
"You would find that if you applied that to marijuana and any other controlled substance, we would reduce the gang influence, reduce crime in general," he argued from Vancouver.
"Marijuana won't kill you and we love marijuana. The five million Canadians who use marijuana cherish it like Christians cherish their religion, or a gourmand cherishes good food," he said.
The government, he added, doesn't focus on cracking down in the same way on other harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and fatty foods. "Those things all kill you," he said.
Emery is currently facing possible extradition to the U.S. to answer to charges of drug trafficking for selling marijuana seeds to Americans over the internet.