After 28 years on the Vancouver police force, Tony Smith believes the "war on drugs" is creating far more problems than it's solving.
During a 45-minute speech at the Alberta Harm Reduction Conference on Thursday, Smith argued legalizing all drugs would lower crime, and take control of the drug industry out of the hands of dangerous criminals.
The retired officer is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( LEAP ), a non-profit organization of former judges, prosecutors, federal agents and police officers from around the world that argues that drugs should be legalized and taxed similar to alcohol.
A former member of the force's pawn shop squad, he told the crowd of about 350 people about a man who arrived at a Vancouver pawn shop still tearing the tags off stolen goods with his teeth.
"Dealers are right outside the pawnshops taking the money for drugs," he said. "If you're needing $200 for drugs, then you're going to need to steal around $2,000 worth of goods."
Smith estimated that Canada spends $2.5 billion a year enforcing drug laws, including the costs to the court system, the jail system and the police.
"Think of all the good that saving that money could do," he said. "It could be put towards the education system or the health care system."
Smith said if government controlled the drugs as opposed to criminals, it would be easier for addicts to get help quitting.
"Dealers have no interest in their clients quitting, if anything they try to push more drugs," he said.
The response to Smith's message was mixed.
"I agree with a lot of what he said," said Lianne Hazell, director of housing with Central Alberta Safe Harbour Society. "We believe that if we have more police to look after policing the drugs and alcohol problem, then that's going to solve it . . . we don't have to work harder, we have to work differently."
Hazell said legalization of drugs might be a solution.
She said she hoped that if drugs were legalized the government would also work on helping addicts get well.
Dr. Laura McLeod deputy medical officer of health for the David Thompson Health Region, said she was concerned about Smith's claims that marijuana did not have any lasting harmful health effects.
"A lot of the health studies on marijuana have been done on the baby boomer generation smoking marijuana in the '70s," she said. "We know the dose of THC ( the main chemical in the drug ) in current street marijuana is much higher . . . we don't know what the effects of that will be." McLeod said she did not have enough expertise to comment on the legalization of drugs.
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Pubdate: Fri, 28 Mar 2008
Source: Red Deer Advocate (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 Red Deer Advocate
Author: Ashley Joannou
Cited: Alberta Harm Reduction Conference http://www.albertaharmreduction.ca/
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition http://www.leap.cc/
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mjcn.htm (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/hr.htm (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?233 (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)