Alex Binkley on Harper gets it, finally

Alex Binkley is a foremost political and economic analyst, whose website is Readers will be aware that his columns in True North Perspective have foreseen political and economic developments in Canada. This week in ... 

The Binkley Report 

Even Harper gets it, finally
Now it's high time he did something about it
By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

Prime Minister Harper has finally admitted what most folks realized a long time ago—the so-called war on drugs is a complete, total and utter failure. Our downtown areas are awash with the crippled human remains of the drug trade while virtual civil wars rage in Latin America fueled by the demand for drugs in Canada and the United States.

The issue came to a head at the recent Organization of American States Summit in Colombia when the Latin countries pushed Canada and the United States to decriminalize drugs to help put the criminal gangs out of business.

Obama and Harper weren’t cooperating. However, Harper admitted to reporters later that “there is almost universal agreement that we should continue to fight transnational criminal networks. There is increasing doubt about whether we are taking the best approach to that. What I think everybody believes and agrees with—and I’ll be frank myself—is that the current approach is not working. But it is not clear what we should do.”

Now, Prime Minister, if one is uncertain about something in life, one can suppress the matter. However, a much better approach is to seek the advice of others. While Harper generally doesn’t like the idea of opening up a discussion that he can’t control, it’s high time Canadians took a long, hard look at the drug issue. Before the damage and death toll gets any worse.

First, we have to accept that the illegal drug issue is widespread in Canada and is largely beyond the control of governments and police.

Obviously over-consumption of drugs is harmful as is drinking too much alcohol. Obesity is also a serious health threat. And some drugs are especially dangerous because they are adulterated with noxious substances. This is what we should be focused on.

So some form of a network of drug stores, as opposed to pharmacies, regulated by government for safety purposes, would appear to be a useful option. That way the drugs would at least be safe.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time in urban centres in Canada, or probably anywhere, before you smell marijuana in the air and on people’s clothes. And you see the vacant faces, emaciated bodies and scared faces of drug damaged people.

In the days after Harper admitted the war on drugs was a failure, the networks and media were full of commentaries on the issue. A lot of good points were made. Spend a little time searching the Internet and you can find tonnes of information. Dan Gardner had a superb column in the Ottawa Citizen April 18 spelling out the background of the so-called war on drugs. See the website for more information. It’s a coalition of high-profile academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts, which is working to reduce crime and public health problems stemming from the prohibition on marijuana. The group includes several former B.C. attorneys general, several former Vancouver mayors, a former B.C. premier and a former RCMP superintendent for the province.

So we need a focus to a national discussion. We have such an institution. It’s called Parliament. We’ve elected mostly bright men and women to represent us there. Set up a special committee of MPs and Senators who are prepared to actually study the issue and let them examine the evidence, hear the witnesses and produce a game plan for the government. They will understand better than most, the political ramifications of such a change.

John McKay is a former U.S. district attorney in the State of Washington who gained some fame for prosecuting B.C. marijuana activist Marc Emery for selling dope in the U.S. Well, McKay has come to the conclusion that laws keeping pot illegal no longer serve any purpose, but do enable gangs and cartels to generate billions in profits. He’s supporting measures to legalize marijuana in his state.

“I want to say this just as clearly and as forthrightly as I can, marijuana prohibition, criminal prohibition of marijuana is a complete failure,” McKay told a news conference. Marijuana, like alcohol, should be produced and sold to adults by the government, generating revenue for governments and more importantly, end the violent reign of gangs and drug cartels, he advocates.

By all means, Prime Minister, continue the fight against transnational gangs which are also responsible for human trafficking, fraud and all sorts of other rank crimes. But take away their main income source by allowing the sale through commercial channels of safe drugs. You’ll be doing Canadians a favour as well as millions of Latin Americans and citizens of other developing countries.