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7.06.2009

Waterloo via Juarez

For a clear example of the gulf between reality and politics, look no further than Bill C-15, supported by the Conservatives and Liberals, calling for (among other things) mandatory minimum sentences for people who grow marijuana. Pretending to be another “Get-tough-on-crime” bill, our government has just insured that the violence of Juarez that has already hit the shores of Vancouver, will spread across this country just a little bit faster. Our government, including helpless first-time Waterloo MP Peter Braid, has just aided drug dealers, increasing their profit margin, while throwing even more public resources down a bottomless pit of lawyers, cops, and judges all pretending to fight a war that was lost a long time ago. The billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on prohibition has resulted in the U.S. now incarcerating people at a rate nearly five times the world average, with one in four prisoners on the planet now in the U.S. At the same time it’s empowered drug cartels everywhere, to the point where the Mexican army is now fighting itself. In the U.S. federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibition while having absolutely no effect on consumption, price or crime. The institutional racism still manifest in drug prohibition has become obvious, most people understand that the war on drugs is a war on black people.

Anti-prohibitionists now have a concrete example with which to make their case. In 2001, Portugal became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. The result, according to a report published by right-wing think tank the Cato institute Cato in April, was that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana. There is virtually nobody left to seriously argue for drug prohibition. Conservatives like Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley and George P. Schultz came to their senses a long time ago. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox recently joined three other ex-leaders of Latin American nations calling for the decriminalization of marijuana. Fox was mirroring a position adopted by his predecessor as president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, and the former heads of Colombia and Brazil. The position was finally adopted by current President Felipe Calderon, who proposed decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana earlier this summer.

With the effects of prohibition so obvious to anybody with a brain, we can reasonably ask ourselves: Why is our government so stupid? The truth is, of course, is that they’re not really stupid, just spineless. They’re just proving their willingness to sacrifice a few lives for the get-tough-on-crime people for votes. They know as well as we do that these laws will have absolutely no effect whatsoever. It’s, as usual, pandering to Joe Lunchpail and Martha Housecoat who are convinced that if we just lock up enough black people, the problem with go away. Well, the U.S. has been locking up black people at an enormous rate and it hasn’t had much of an effect. What it will take to convince Joe and Martha that prohibition doesn’t work is difficult to say, but the government could at least try to educate them. Instead, they take the easy option, sacrificing the well-being of their own constituents and indeed their own families for the chance at a majority government. For taking this course, the individuals who supported this bill, including Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and Waterloo’s own Peter Baird cannot be considered honorable men and women, but rather can only be identified as that low and disgusting creature, the common politician.

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