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Following is the text of a statement that formed the basis for comments delivered by Eugene Oscapella, one of the founders of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, at a June 15, 1999, press conference organized by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, following Senator Nolin’s June 14 speech in the Senate calling for a special Senate committee to re-examine Canada’s drug laws and policies.

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan organization whose
goals include examining alternatives to Canada’s current drug policies.

We commend Senator Nolin and his colleagues for pressing for an open and honest review of drug policy in
Canada.  We fully support the review.  We firmly believe that such a review will eventually conclude, as has
virtually every other serious and honest study of contemporary drug policy, that we must fundamentally change
the way we deal with drugs, that we must shift from treating them as a criminal justice issue to treating them
primarily as a health and social issue.  This review should not, however, be permitted to serve as an excuse for
the government to sit on its hands in the interim. Many important, in some cases life-saving, recommendations
have already been made to it to reduce the harms associated with drugs.

It is abundantly clear that Canada’s “war on drugs” -- and it is a war on drugs, despite what some bureaucrats
may try to argue -- is not working, that it is proving a disastrous failure.  More guns, more police and more
prisons are simply not the answer.  Greater reliance on American-style policies of prohibition and incarceration
are not the answer. This will only lead to more violence, more spread of disease, more drug overdoses, more
wasted resources, more profits for organized crime and more corruption among the institutions of our society.
It is also profoundly inhumane to the citizens of this country who have drug problems, and it seriously threatens
the basic liberties and health of even those far removed from the drug scene.
Canada does not need more of the types of policies we already have – policies based on criminal prohibition
that conspire to maximize the damage that drugs do to our society. These policies do not reduce the harmful use
of drugs. Too often they foster the harmful use of drugs.

Surely we cannot still think that doing more of the same – more of the drug policies and laws that have not
worked, more of what is not working – will somehow magically work in the future. We must look for
alternatives that truly address the harms associated with drugs.

That search for alternatives must become nonpartisan.  Drug policy is too serious an issue to be left to what has
become an increasingly silly and destructive partisan debate, with too many politicians trying to “out-tough”
each other when it comes to talk about drugs. I would hope that some political parties might cease relying on
the war on drugs as a political “cash cow” that helps them to get re-elected, despite the fact that this “get tough”
stance both creates and perpetuates some of the most serious drug problems in this country.  Instead, for the
sake of this country, they have a responsibility to lay down their ideology and their immediate self-interest, and
instead turn honestly to the task of resolving the difficult problems associated with the use of drugs in this

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Updated: 24 Jul 2001 | Accessed: 34921 times