New plan for drugs in Canada

By Euphoric · Oct 4, 2007 · Updated Oct 4, 2007 · ·
  1. Euphoric 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 Emery
    Critics 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:
    • 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.
    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.
    [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.

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  1. Euphoric

    PM wants mandatory sentences for 'serious' drug crimes

    Harper vows to help addicts but punish traffickers

    Last Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2007 | 8:24 AM ET

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised mandatory prison terms for serious drug crimes as part of a $63.8-million, two-year drug strategy he says will help addicts and punish dealers.

    In a Winnipeg news conference Thursday, Harper lamented that "currently there are no minimum prison sentences for producing and trafficking dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine."

    "But these are serious crimes," he said. "Those who commit them should do serious time, so we'll introduce new legislation this fall proposing mandatory prison sentences for people convicted of serious drug offences."

    He did not say what offences would fall into that category or how long the sentences would be, but he did not mention marijuana in connection with mandatory sentencing.
    Even so, he allowed himself a jab at his Liberal predecessors, who came close to decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Canadian governments have sent mixed messages about drugs, he complained.

    "They've tacked back and forth between prohibition and legalization so many times that Canadians hardly know what the law actually says any more. It's time to be straight with Canadians so Canadians who use drugs can get straight, because narcotics destroy lives."

    He promised new money for drug investigations and prosecutions, bigger campaigns to identify and close drug labs and marijuana grow ops, tougher border enforcement to keep drugs out of the country and more RCMP efforts to seize proceeds of crime.
    "If you get involved with drugs, you can receive help to get away from them," he said. "However, if you sell drugs or produce drugs, you will go to prison."

    People involved in the treatment of addictions have raised concerns the money being spent by the government will focus too much on enforcement and leave out harm-reduction measures, such as safe-injection sites and needle-exchange programs.
    Harper said harm reduction is not a "distinct pillar" of the Conservative strategy.

    His government is watching harm-reduction efforts in Vancouver to see how they work, but he is cool to the idea, he said.

    "I remain a skeptic that you can tell people we won't stop the drug trade, we won't get you off drugs, we won't even send messages to discourage drug use, but somehow we will keep you addicted and yet reduce the harm just the same," he said
    It is "a second-best strategy at best," he said, "because if you remain a drug addict, I don't care how much harm you reduce, you're going to have a short and miserable life."

    Harper and two of his colleagues, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Health Minister Tony Clement, stressed that two-thirds of the money in the strategy would go to programs designed to help addicts quit and raise public awareness of the dangers of drugs.

    The rest, $21.6 million, would go to enforcement efforts, Day said.
    Liberals and New Democrats were quick to denounce the plan as a U.S.-style war on drugs.

    "Stephen Harper’s ideological stance focuses on cracking down on drug possession, production and trafficking, while retreating from harm-reduction measures that help Canadians suffering from addiction," Liberal health critic Bonnie Brown said in a statement.

    Liberal MP Keith Martin, a physician, said the strategy "will be terrible for Canada because it will result in increased drug use, increased crime, increased incarceration rates and increased costs to the taxpayer. This is a failed approach that has had catastrophic consequences in the U.S. It would be utterly foolish for us to adopt this approach in Canada."

    Libby Davies, the NDP member for Vancouver East, said experience shows that treatment, prevention and harm-reduction programs are key to preventing drug use.
    "A heavy-handed, U.S.-style war on drugs only serves to create a culture of fear," she said in a statement. "This so-called drug strategy fails to address the very real needs in our communities."
  2. grandbaby
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