Justin Trudeau has announced his government will not legalize any other drugs after marijuana. This is a mistake. The principles for legalizing marijuana apply to all other illicit drugs, except of course the harm they cause addicts. The harm can only be reduced by legalizing all other drugs. It will save both Canadian lives and Canadian dollars.
Portugal took a bold step in 2001 when it decriminalized possession of all drugs. In the last 16 years, the country has seen remarkable decreases in addiction, youth use, HIV/AIDS, and overdose deaths, all while Canada is gripped by the worst opioid crisis in our history. The bare minimum estimate is 1,600 overdose deaths in in Canada 2016.
If Canada were to decriminalize opiates, as Portugal has done, or even go a step further and fully legalize it, the government would be able to regulate the market. There would be no chance of fentanyl contamination.
Bill Bogart, who wrote Off the Streets, a book about legalization, told Vice News, “There’s no quality assurance of what is being sold [with just decriminalization], so in an illicit market, people can be sold tainted substances that can make them sick or even kill them.”
“There’s no quality assurance of what is being sold [with just decriminalization], so in an illicit market, people can be sold tainted substances that can make them sick or even kill them.”
The crisis Canada is enduring has a simple and obvious cause: the over prescription of medical opiates like oxycontin and Percocet. In 2014, 21.7 million opiate prescriptions were written. This is the second highest in the world.
The National Institute of Drug Use found 86 per cent of heroin addicts became addicted by abusing prescriptions. Prohibition is very clearly not stopping people from getting high and getting addicted.
That’s not the only problem prohibition is causing the medical community. Scientists have long speculated on the use of psychedelics, like LSD and ecstasy, in treating depression and PTSD. However, these drugs are nearly impossible to study.
“These drugs offer the greatest opportunity we have in mental health.” Nutt went on to call the prohibition of the drugs, “the worst censorship in the history of science”.
Professor David Nutt, who studied the effects of LSD on the brain for the Beckley Foundation, told an audience in London, “These drugs offer the greatest opportunity we have in mental health.” Nutt went on to call the prohibition of the drugs, “the worst censorship in the history of science”. His study showed small doses of LSD, MDMA and psilocybin drastically improved the condition of people with depression, PTSD, anxiety and even cancer.
If these drugs were legalized, it would completely change modern medicine.
Prohibition also allows criminals to flourish. Exploiting alcohol prohibition allowed the mafia to dominate the U.S. The current prohibition has led to the rise of gangs and cartels, who collect the 75 billion dollars a year spent on illegal drugs. Legalization would take that money out of the black market and bring it back to society.
However, these drugs should be kept out of the hands of youth. This goal will be much easier to reach if drugs were legalized.
Among Ontario high schoolers, 42 per cent have reported using an illicit drug in the past year. After Portugal decriminalized drug possession, the American non-profit Drug Policy Alliance found rates of youth use decreased by 10 per cent. Portugal’s Institute of Drugs and Drug Addiction found, “Adolescent drug use, as well as problematic drug use … has decreased since 2003.”
Finally, the economics of drug use must be discussed. In 2006, The Canadian Centre for Drug Use found Canada spends $2.4 billion on enforcing drug laws compared to $1.1 billion on treatment. American drug policy expert Jonathan P. Caulkins led a study that found one dollar spent on treatment will reduce cocaine imports as much as $7 spent on enforcement. That dollar would also reduce cocaine use as much as $11 spent on border security and $23 spent persuading Colombian farmers not to grow coca.
It’s clear from Portugal’s example and the projections of experts, legalization will save lives, protect youth, reduce the influence of criminal suppliers, and save Canada billions of dollars. Legalization is the only viable end to the war on drugs.