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Note to reader: This is the text of a letter sent to the full Senate by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy about Bill C-8. The letter was sent because the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs was about to complete its study of Bill C- 8 and possibly recommend changes to the Bill.

June 4, 1996

The Honourable ______________
Senator
The Senate
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Senator:

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is about to complete its review of Bill C-8, the proposed Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The founding members of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, who are among the most experienced drug policy researchers in Canada, believe that Bill C-8 will cause far more harm than it will resolve unless the Senate substantially amends it. As presented to the Senate last autumn, Bill C-8 will do little to resolve the problems associated with the abuse of drugs in our society. At the same time, it will perpetuate many of the problems associated with our current prohibitionist drug laws and policies -- violence and corruption related to the black market trade in drugs, unnecessary death from hepatitis and AIDS, and the waste of scarce government resources among them. At the end of the 20th Century, Canada's drug policies will remain firmly rooted in medieval notions that a war on drugs is the way to stop drug-related harms.

Our current drug laws do not work. They barely dent the flow of drugs into Canada or their production within Canada. Drug raids and seizures make great headlines, but they do little else. Our drug laws do not stop or even significantly reduce drug use. Bill C-8, in the form it was passed by the House of Commons, will do nothing to change this. However, the Bill, like our current drug laws, will do immense damage to Canadian society in the following ways:

    . 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 U.S. Prohibition during the 1920s; Bill C-8 will therefore encourage the very violence from which Parliament seeks to protect Canadians

    . 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 otherwise 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 us all

    . 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 resources from legitimate law enforcement needs and from health care, education and social systems that could do something about 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.

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy urges you to move away from a continuing reliance on criminal prohibition as a means for dealing with drugs in our society. We urge you to listen to the growing chorus of articulate voices, among them The Economist magazine and the National Review, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. We urge you to listen to the voices of the great majority of witnesses who appeared before the Senate Committee to challenge Bill C-8, including the Canadian Bar Association, the Law Union of Ontario, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and this Foundation. All called for a move away from criminal prohibition. All called for society to treat drugs as a health and social issue, rather than an issue to be bludgeoned -- to no avail, but causing tremendous other harms -- by the criminal law.

We enclose for your review several articles and studies outlining just some of the many flaws of the prohibitionist approach to drugs in society. These include recent editorials and lead articles from The Economist, the National Review, the internationally respected medical journal The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, and several stories from Canadian and foreign newspapers decrying the futility of continuing with criminal prohibition. We also enclose our testimony before the Committee, outlining just some of our many concerns with Bill C-8.

This material represents only a small fraction of the growing literature challenging prohibition. We will be pleased to direct you to further materials. We will also be pleased to meet with you to discuss these issues more fully and to answer any concerns you may have.

We urge you to rethink prohibition. We urge you to reject Bill C-8 unless it is substantially amended to move away from a punitive and ineffective philosophy of criminalizing behaviour that should be dealt with as a health and social issue. Legislating more of what has not worked, is not working, and will not work, is not the answer.

We close with the words of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman in a 1989 letter directed to former U.S. drug "czar" William Bennett:

    Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society.

Yours sincerely,

Eugene Oscapella
Barrister and Solicitor
Founding member
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy

Policy home page

Note to reader: This is the text of a letter sent to the full Senate by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy about Bill C-8. The letter was sent because the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs was about to complete its study of Bill C- 8 and possibly recommend changes to the Bill.

June 4, 1996

The Honourable ______________
Senator
The Senate
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Senator:

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is about to complete its review of Bill C-8, the proposed Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The founding members of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, who are among the most experienced drug policy researchers in Canada, believe that Bill C-8 will cause far more harm than it will resolve unless the Senate substantially amends it. As presented to the Senate last autumn, Bill C-8 will do little to resolve the problems associated with the abuse of drugs in our society. At the same time, it will perpetuate many of the problems associated with our current prohibitionist drug laws and policies -- violence and corruption related to the black market trade in drugs, unnecessary death from hepatitis and AIDS, and the waste of scarce government resources among them. At the end of the 20th Century, Canada's drug policies will remain firmly rooted in medieval notions that a war on drugs is the way to stop drug-related harms.

Our current drug laws do not work. They barely dent the flow of drugs into Canada or their production within Canada. Drug raids and seizures make great headlines, but they do little else. Our drug laws do not stop or even significantly reduce drug use. Bill C-8, in the form it was passed by the House of Commons, will do nothing to change this. However, the Bill, like our current drug laws, will do immense damage to Canadian society in the following ways:

    . 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 U.S. Prohibition during the 1920s; Bill C-8 will therefore encourage the very violence from which Parliament seeks to protect Canadians

    . 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 otherwise 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 us all

    . 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 resources from legitimate law enforcement needs and from health care, education and social systems that could do something about 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.

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy urges you to move away from a continuing reliance on criminal prohibition as a means for dealing with drugs in our society. We urge you to listen to the growing chorus of articulate voices, among them The Economist magazine and the National Review, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. We urge you to listen to the voices of the great majority of witnesses who appeared before the Senate Committee to challenge Bill C-8, including the Canadian Bar Association, the Law Union of Ontario, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and this Foundation. All called for a move away from criminal prohibition. All called for society to treat drugs as a health and social issue, rather than an issue to be bludgeoned -- to no avail, but causing tremendous other harms -- by the criminal law.

We enclose for your review several articles and studies outlining just some of the many flaws of the prohibitionist approach to drugs in society. These include recent editorials and lead articles from The Economist, the National Review, the internationally respected medical journal The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, and several stories from Canadian and foreign newspapers decrying the futility of continuing with criminal prohibition. We also enclose our testimony before the Committee, outlining just some of our many concerns with Bill C-8.

This material represents only a small fraction of the growing literature challenging prohibition. We will be pleased to direct you to further materials. We will also be pleased to meet with you to discuss these issues more fully and to answer any concerns you may have.

We urge you to rethink prohibition. We urge you to reject Bill C-8 unless it is substantially amended to move away from a punitive and ineffective philosophy of criminalizing behaviour that should be dealt with as a health and social issue. Legislating more of what has not worked, is not working, and will not work, is not the answer.

We close with the words of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman in a 1989 letter directed to former U.S. drug "czar" William Bennett:

    Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society.

Yours sincerely,

Eugene Oscapella
Barrister and Solicitor
Founding member
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy

Updated: 24 Jul 2001 | Accessed: 27521 times