POT AUTHOR URGES LEGALIZATION
HALIFAX - Brian O'Dea spent 10 years in prison for importing 75 tons for marijuana into the United States in the 1980s. Now, he is telling his story of addiction and recovery in a book, while also sending another strong message - he's promoting the legalization and organized distribution of illegal drugs.
O'Dea used marijuana while attending university in Halifax in the late 1960s and as his attendance declined, his drug intake increased. His memoir, High: Confessions of a Pot Smuggler hit bookshelves this month and is receiving rave reviews.
"I don't know a lot about what ( the drug trade ) is like today, but from what I read, it's much more violent, neighbourhoods are controlled by drug distributors," the Newfoundland native said.
O'Dea says he finds it odd that cigarettes and alcohol are available for legal distribution, but drugs are not.
He says branding people as criminals because they use certain substances to "get out of their minds" is hypocrisy.
"The way that we've structured drug laws today have created a criminal subculture that has taken control of our neighbourhoods," he said.
"Give the neighbourhoods back to the people that live in them, legitimize drugs, make them legal. Put drugs where they should be, through legal distribution centres so they can be distributed to people who want to use them.
"All of the violence around drug use is around the control of its distribution."
Cpl. Gary Frail of the RCMPs Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Service strongly disagrees.
"Drugs are illegal because they're bad; they're not bad because they're illegal," said Frail.
"We refute ( legalization ) 1,000 per cent; legalization would just lead to more victims of addiction."
Frail said that organized crime is not going to go away if drugs are legalized because drugs are only one part of a larger problem.
The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse released a document last week, tallying the cost of substance abuse in Canada in 2002. Illegal drugs accounted for about $8.2 billion in expense from categories such as productivity loss, health-care costs, and law-enforcement burdens.