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Seriously Rethinking Criminal Drug Policy
Shawn Swarts
Shawn Swarts

June 2011-During the last week of May an International Global Commission on Drug Policy, was hosted in New York City. This Commission was the most distinguished group yet to call for far reaching changes in the world's drug policies. Included in the Commission were the former presidents of Mexico, Greece, Columbia, Brazil, Switzerland, Kofi Anna former UN Secretary General, Paul Volcker former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, and even George Shultz former US Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. The Commission called for a "Paradigm shift" on drug policy, moving from a focus on criminal justice towards a public health approach. The Commission noted that the global war against drugs was "an abject disaster" and further the emphasis on drug policy of harsh law enforcement over four decades has not accomplished its goal of banishing drugs and had in fact spawned wide, dramatic eruptions of violence. The Commission advocated decriminalizing drug use or even legalizing and regulating drug use amongst those who possess it solely for personal use. This conference was described by Danny Kushlick, head of External Affairs on Drug Policy with the UN, as "what we have here is the greatest collection thus far of ex-Presidents and Prime Ministers calling very clearly for decriminalization and experiments with legal regulation." Regrettably politicians in power are much more reluctant to consider reasonable changes to our Drug policy. Prime Minister Harper with his new majority has in fact promised the complete opposite and in his new Omnibus Crime Bill he intends to bring forward legislation that includes mandatory minimums such as six months in jail for possession of five pot plants and a year in jail for the possession of one pound of marijuana or trafficking in any amount of marijuana. These draconian punishments are out of touch and out of step with the rest of the world and will not assist in any way in making Canada a safer place. What is needed is smart, science based, progressive thought on drug policy treating it as a health issue, not as a criminal justice issue. Sadly, our Federal Government is moving in the complete opposite direction, pursuing a US style Drug policy of harsh penalties and incarceration; a policy that has failed horribly in the U.S.

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