Wednesday December 14, 2011

BC Politics

Going Green No Laughing Matter

Criminalizing illegal drugs causes more harm to the community than good

Released by the BC Green Party


he recently released paper by the Health Officers Council (HOC) of British Columbia here on regulating alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, including illegal substances, details a public health approach and makes recommendations that are consistent with the policy of the Green Party of BC that problematic drug use should be treated as a public health rather than a criminal
justice issue.

The HOC report points out:

  • that policies around alcohol, tobacco and prescription and illegal
    substances are failing;

  • that there are high social, economic and health costs associated
    with the failed policy;

  • that these impacts are largely preventable;

  • that prohibition is ineffective and, in fact, causes measurable harm;

  • that a public health approach would look at evidence from the "free
    market" experience of selling tobacco and alcohol;

  • that the evidence of harm reduction of current illegal substances
    from jurisdictions that have moved away from criminalization shows
    both decreased recreational and problematic drug use; and

  • that a public health oriented regulatory framework is needed to
    "ensure that all steps in the supply chain are under careful societal

"The report makes three recommendations that the Green Party of BC supports," says leader Jane Sterk. "First, all levels of government including local governments and First Nations governments need to be involved in a review of all laws related to psychoactive substances to ensure the legislation and regulation is approached from a public health perspective."

"The current situation with the federal government in charge of the criminal code and provinces having to enforce laws that are clearly causing harm is increasingly untenable. The devastation is being expressed on the streets of all BC and First Nations communities. It is destroying families and individuals, making communities unsafe and contributing to increasingly unsustainable and escalating policing costs."

"BC Greens also support the suggestion that we need to review the profit motive behind the promotion and use of these products. Governments are clearly conflicted when they get revenue from the sale of products that have measurable harmful effects when misused when the advertising of those products contributes to addictions. Governments become so reliant on the revenue that they are complicit in promoting excessive use of the products."

"At the same time, the profit motive in the trade of illegal drugs fuels crime and gang activity that is a clear and present danger in
our communities. We can learn from our experience with alcohol and tobacco what not to do as we end prohibition of drugs. Government can't be both addicted to the revenue and promoting responsible use that will reduce that revenue."

"The HOC recommendation of a commission of inquiry to develop a public health approach to alcohol, tobacco, illegal substances and other psychoactive substances (including prescription drugs) is ambitious. Too many vested interests would resist moving from a criminalization and profit driven focus to one guided by public health principles. While in theory BC Greens think such a commission would lead to transformative change, we see too much partisan ideology in governments to support such a scientific, evidence-based and common sense approach."

"The HOC has added another important voice to the growing chorus of organizations calling for the end to prohibition. When medical officers of health, police, lawyers and judges, the general public and real estate firms (doc) support the kinds of reforms Greens have been advocating, it shows Greens are the right side of history," concludes Sterk.




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