NFB FILM MAKES A STRONG CASE FOR DECRIMINALIZING DRUGS Regulation, Treatment More Effective, Police Lobby Group Argues DAMAGE DONE: THE DRUG WAR ODYSSEY VANCOUVER - It's a familiar scene on TV newscasts: wads of cash, rows of guns and bags full of drugs displayed neatly on a table by police officers seemingly posing by their latest set of trophies. One more drug bust, another haul and big-time traffickers facing the prospect of hefty jail time. But some former law enforcement officials in Canada and the U.S. who've spent years fighting the ongoing war on drugs say it's a losing battle. Their views about how prohibition has failed to make a dent in the drug supply while millions of dollars continue to be wasted on criminalizing recreational drug users are told in the National Film Board documentary Damage Done: The Drug War Odyssey. Most of the police officers featured in the film are part of a growing U.S.-based organization called LEAP -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition -- which also includes corrections officers, retired and sitting judges and prosecutors. Mike Smithson, a spokesman for LEAP, said from Medford, Mass., that about 330 of the organization's 7,000 international members are Canadians. They include Senator Larry Campbell, a former RCMP drug squad officer and Vancouver mayor who ran on a platform of reducing harm from drug use. Campbell, whose views are featured in the film, said in an interview that drug laws need to be reformed so addiction is treated as a health issue that's exacerbated by other problems including poverty, homelessness and mental illness. He said his law-and-order stance about criminalizing junkies as a Mountie changed radically when he became Vancouver's chief coroner in 1996 and saw the devastating effects of drug overdoses in the city's seedy Downtown Eastside. "When I really took a hard look at it, I realized that what we were doing was not saving lives. In fact, we were seeing the deaths increase," he said. Campbell is a proponent of Vancouver's safe-injection site, which provides a harm-reduction approach to treating people who may otherwise overdose or pass on blood-borne diseases such as HIV from shared needles. At Insite, the only such facility in North America, addicts shoot up heroin in the presence of a nurse and are offered referrals for treatment. Campbell noted that various studies published in top international journals have hailed the positive effects of Insite, including reduced property crime by people desperate for a fix. The facility is operating as a pilot project until the end of the year, when the Conservative government is expected to decide its fate. "I will say this, I will not let it be shut down," Campbell said, adding the site saves taxpayers $250,000 a year for every addict who doesn't contract HIV. Like other members of LEAP, Campbell favours legalization of drugs so they can be controlled and regulated.