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Foundation condemns health consequences of punitive new federal drug law

Ottawa (October 22, 1996): Preparing to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy condemned the federal government's punitive new drug law as a giant step backwards in addressing the harms associated with drugs in Canada.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was given Royal Assent on June 20, 1996 after a two-and-a-half year voyage through Parliament that drew massive criticism of the Act's prohibitionist stance. The law replaces the Narcotic Control Act and parts of the Food and Drugs Act.

Said Foundation representative and Ottawa lawyer Eugene Oscapella, "The federal government has almost completely ignored the overwhelming opposition to this prohibitionist legislation. Punitive drug laws have failed. More of the same is not the answer. By enacting the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the government is continuing to do profound harm to Canada by pretending that prohibition is the answer to our drug problems. Prohibition wasn't the answer in the 1920s; it isn't the answer now."

"The new legislation perpetuates and in some cases increases the harms associated with drugs in our society. At the end of the 20th Century, Canada's drug policies remain rooted in the discredited notion that a brutal war on drugs driven by the criminal justice system is the way to stop drug-related harms."

The Foundation has argued on many occasions that punitive, prohibitionist legislation causes far greater harms than it prevents:

. by supporting a violent and corrupting black market in drugs -- a black market that is the very product of the law, just as a violent and corrupting black market in alcohol was the product of Prohibition in the United States during the 1920s

. by forcing dependent users to commit acquisitive crimes so they can afford to pay the exorbitant black market prices of drugs

. by increasing the dangers associated with using drugs -- overdoses from drugs of unknown potency and death or injury from adulterated drugs

. by giving criminal records to hundreds of thousands of productive Canadians who have used drugs, stigmatizing them and impairing their ability to find work and contribute to society

. by eroding the basic rights of all Canadians, not merely drug users, through increasingly intrusive government powers of investigation and surveillance -- powers that violate the privacy and diminish the freedom of all Canadians

. by fostering an explosion in rates of HIV and hepatitis infection among drug users, infections which are now spreading into populations far removed from the drug milieu

. by wasting billions of dollars on law enforcement and criminal justice measures, including the imprisonment of non-violent users, that do little to resolve the problems associated with drugs

. by diverting precious funds from legitimate law enforcement needs and from health care, education and social systems that could do something to prevent the harmful use of drugs

. by distorting educational messages about the harms associated with all drugs, not merely those that are now illegal

. by ignoring successful measures introduced in several other democratic countries -- Australia, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom among them -- to reduce the harms associated with drugs, both for users and the societies in which they live.

"This is the end of the 20th Century", said Oscapella. "It's time for Canada's politicians to stop their damaging and ill-informed rhetoric about the need for a prohibitionist approach to drugs and instead look towards treating drugs as a health and social issue."

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy was formed in 1993 by 11 of Canada's leading independent drug policy reformers. Its founding members include psychologists, pharmacologists, criminologists, lawyers, health policy advocates and public policy researchers. The Foundation's objects include acting as a forum for examining the consequences of drug laws and policies on individual Canadians, their communities and Canadian society as a whole.

Contact: Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy (Ottawa) (613) 236-1027


visit the Foundation Web site at: http://fox.nstn.ca/~eoscapel/cfdp/cfdp.html

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Updated: 24 Jul 2001 | Accessed: 10496 times