Sunday, December 20, 2015

no truce yet in drug war

Despite newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana there have been few if any indications that the war on drugs is slowing down.  According to Statistics Canada police have been ramping up efforts to target drug users at the expense of focusing on bringing more heinous criminals to justice. The vast majority of these cases are addicts or low level addict traffickers. To the Canadian legal system's credit, the typical sentence for simple drug possession, even in the case of hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine, is a fine or a very brief gaol sentence. Trafficking in these forbidden substances, on the other hand, will usually (but not always) result in a prison (2+ year) term. Even marijuana cultivation can land you in substantial criminal trouble if the operation is deemed to be commercial in scope.

One disturbing trend in 2015 has been the rise of fentanyl, an extremely toxic opiod. In Alberta 213 people have overdosed on this drug so far this year.  Overdoses are a byproduct of prohibition. Illegal drugs become extremely high priced on the black market, since the supply is kept artificially limited by police seizures and the fact that prohibition militates against the inclusion of large scale enterprise in production. Demand, on the other hand, is as strong as ever (it helps that the product is highly addictive and thus the demand is inelastic). Since the drug is so expensive, and the type of people who are attracted to the drug trade are often unscrupulous (to put it mildly), almost invariably the drugs are cut with some inexpensive (and potentially toxic) agent. So an addict gets used to using a certain amount of a drug to get the high they desire and when they stumble upon some less cut product they use their typical amount and overdose. Drug addiction is a social and medical problem and should be treated like one.  Were drugs legalized, you would no longer have this issue of uncertain quality. Further, if we eliminate the criminal stigma attached to drug use it would be far easier to get addicts the medical or psychological help they so clearly need. And if the supply of drugs were not artificially reduced by prohibition, the cost would be much lesser as well, meaning that addicts may not resort to anti-social behaviour such as robbery in order to finance their addiction. If a crack habit costs only $5 a day instead of $500, then they won't need to rob or whore to finance it. Probably most crackheads don't want to rob, since it is fairly dangerous and could lead to a prison sentence; they just really want crack.

Police resources are scarce.  Instead of fighting a no win war on drugs they should be focused on protecting property rights and bringing actual criminals to justice. The purpose of law is not to perfect us or save us from ourselves; it is to protect property rights and to address aggression. The war on drugs needs to end.

No comments:

Post a Comment