Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Would ending prohibition of illicit drugs reduce crime?


I heard our old friend Craig Jones from the John Howard Society talking on a Victoria B.C. radio station recently.
Among other things, Jones said the single biggest contributor to violent crime was the prohibition of illicit drugs. He says prohibition has been an abject failure.
He went on to say that when drug busts take place, there’s a spike in violent crime that occurs as the remaining organized criminals in the area fight for market share.
So I sent a few e-mails to Jones asking him two questions:
1) I asked him to provide me with statistics that show how violent crime spikes in Canadian cities after drug busts. After all, Jones always tells us that it’s important to make statements based on evidence. Unfortunately, he had no evidence at all to support his claim that violence goes up after busts, at least not for Canada. He sent me a bunch of studies from other countries which are not relevant. If you claim violence goes up in Canada after drug busts, you have to be able to substantiate that claim with credible statistics or the claims are meaningless.
2) I also asked Jones what the alternatives are to the prohibition of illicit drugs such as crystal meth and crack cocaine. Again, he had no answer other than to say he would like to somehow end the criminal market for these drugs.
I invited Jones onto this blog to share his views further.

I believe that ending prohibition of marijuana especially, would reduce crime. It would take the drugs out of the hands of violent gangs and put them into the hands of government officials, where they could be regulated properly. It would decrease the demand for street drugs, help to free up the court system and reduce prison overcrowding. Non-violent drug dealers and offenders should not be imprisoned, as most often, they do not pose a threat to the safety of society. They should be free to use drugs, if that's what they choose. Prohibition and the war on drugs is a failure. Just look at the US! They imprison many non-violent drug offenders, and it fails to reducing, preventing or deterring further drug crimes and also fails at addressing the root causes and contributing factors to crime. Instead of spending money to incarcerate and criminalize more drug offenders, we should be spending money on addictions prevention programs and substance abuse programs. 

I don't agree with the more harmful and addictive drugs being legalized such as meth and cocaine, but I do feel that marijuana should be legalized or decriminalized. It is less harmful than alcohol and alcohol is legal. Other countries have had success by decriminalizing marijuana. It would also free up police so they could concentrate on more violent crimes and pressing investigations. Substance abuse is a personal choice and people aren't going to quit because it's illegal. Prohibition doesn't reduce crime. 

There are alternatives to the criminal prohibition of drugs such as cocaine and crystal meth. Different regulatory models could be applied to different drugs and forms of drugs. Regulatory models could also vary by consumer. For example, the NAOMI project in Vancouver provided pharmaceutical grade heroin to addicts who had tried and failed with methadone. It remains illegal to sell tobacco to minors. It is illegal to sell alcohol to someone in a drinking establishment who is obviously impaired. Both crack and meth are consequences of prohibition. Prohibition failed to "control" these drugs and made them more profitable, addictive, harmful and potent. We should not leave any drugs under the control of gang members and teenagers, especially not just the most dangerous ones. Prohibition is not working and could not be enforced more vigorously, and there is no empirical evidence to suggest it IS working. There is little evidence to support this drug control strategy and it is simply criminalizing millions of Canadians. It is a victimless crime. Criminalizing marijuana leaves many Canadians with a criminal record which limits their employment, travel and housing opportunities. 

Legalizing drugs would benefit taxpayers financially because Millions of tax dollars are spent on the illegal drug industry mainly by law enforcement and the courts. These groups want to protect their “turf” and want to keep drugs illegal to keep the gravy flowing. Legalization would be a disaster for them…..their budgets would be slashed dramatically. Taxpayers, on the other hand, would benefit as there would be no need to sink millions in tax dollars into fighting this useless “drug war”.

People will not start using more drugs if they become legal. I’m sure non users have already tried drugs and determined that there not for them. The current users don’t really care if it’s legal or not…they use anyway. The only difference is that they won’t have to appear in court or go to jail for using.

I found it amazing that after the Canadian Senate and House of Commons said we should decriminalize marijuana the Conservative govenment went the other way.
The same is happening with the file sharing legislation, after the Supreme Court had said it should be legal, the Conservative govenment is bringing in a bill to make it illegal.
We can continue to argue the pros and cons of decriminalizing drugs, but if the profits of a government supporter are jeopardized, the government will always side with their supporters rather than the Canadian public.
This is a shame, because if Canadians could grow their own pot, it would open more prison cells for violent criminals, free up court rooms, free up Crown attorneys and allow the police to go after more meth and coke dealers. Not to mention the money we are wasting paying for a Senate and Supreme Court.

A blanket approach to legalizing drugs would decrease crime. We have seen it work with alcohol and gambling. But like cigarette smoking it will cause more money to be spent on health care.
Less money on courts and more money on health care…would it make a difference?

Addicts would no longer have to resort to crime to pay for their habit, as prices would be cheaper if legalized. 

Grant asked “How will taxing bring down the price?”
The cost of producing most illicit drugs is trivial. For example, growing cannabis is no more difficult nor costly than growing parsley, which means we can tax it quite a bit and still undercut the black market.
Ivan asked “the government has taxed the hell out of cigarettes already and it hasn’t made up for increased healthcare costs, has it?”
The health care costs of tobacco are an order of magnitude greater than the health care costs associated with illicit drugs, on a per user basis, and most
of the health care costs associated with illicit drugs are made worse by, if not caused by, criminal prohibition. Adulteration, lack of labeling, varying potency, most efficient means of ingestion, etc.
Further, because psychoactive substances are economic substitutes with cross-price elasticities, if illicit drug use goes up following legalization, (and there is no reason to believe it will), alcohol use will go down, reducing overall drug-related health care costs.
“And what about the possibility of someone trying to undercut the “official” price by selling their own supply?”
Our communities are not full of tobacco grow-ops and clandestine distilleries,
suggesting that black marketeers are unlikely to attempt to compete with a legally regulated market.
For the sake of simple math, let’s say cannabis costs $200.00 per ounce
now. Grown in large-scale greenhouses, it would costs a couple of dollars per ounce to produce. If legal cannabis retails for, say, $20.00 per ounce, then about 40 per cent could be profit and about 40 per cent could be sin tax.
Meanwhile, the bad guys will need to decide if they want to try to undercut the market by dropping their prices from $200.00 to less than $20.00 per ounce. If they do, and succeed, then at a minimum, they will be making much less money. They might consider switching to methamphetamine,
but the market for meth is very small compared to the market for weed.
Yes, people do brew their own beer and make their own wine, and no doubt some sell their surplus, but most consumers buy their tobacco and alcohol from the legal market and pay sales tax. I do not think Molson feels very threatened by U-Brew.

The war on drugs will never be won until people stop taking them.
Those folks who do drugs don’t care if they are illegal, that is a great part of the original attraction…especially for teens. Take away the thrill of being naughty and much of the drug problem will disappear. Then we will be left with the true hard-core druggies who have chosen to spend their lives in la-la-land and sleeping in the great outdoors. Some of those might want to change also when they find themselves to be a less major group.
I have never done drugs, do not have an addictive personality, for which I thank God and I think legalizing the lessor drugs like marjiuana could be the start of something good.
The present system isn’t working so why not try something different?
I like the idea of reducing the tax-payers costs of fighting an unwinable war.
Then lets look into the upbringings that are the cause of so much trouble. The ones that create passive-aggressives and narcissists. The ones that are emotionally and psychologically abusive.
1.) How would decriminalization/govt. control of narcotics and other hard-core illicit drugs affect organized crime, price and usage?
Heroin and other opiates are as addictive as tobacco and have more of a negative impact on society (i.e. socially, economically). Usage would increase and like other govt. controlled vices, the price would be as high or higher as it is now. This course of action would have enormous negative societal consequences that go way beyond crime.
2. What about ’soft drugs’ (cannibis products, magic mushrooms)?
Here, it makes sense logistically to decriminalize, but not legalize. This would free police to pursue organized crime for trafficking narcotics and weapons while leaving society to educate and street-proof their kids from abusing soft drugs and alcohol. These are crutches for the antisocial and abused, and addictions to these substances are best dealt with by addiction and guidance counselors, not the police.

In many ways, illegal drugs are like blood diamonds. If no one wanted to buy them, an awful lot of suffering would be alleviated around the world. But people do want to buy them, and they always will. It’s completely unethical for political leaders in developed countries to continue to ignore the very real power they have to improve the situation — by liberalizing drug laws and thereby weakening criminal elements both at home and abroad.
I’d be willing to support outright legalization of all drugs simply because the current approach has been such an unmitigated, disastrous failure. But there’s a lot of room between outright legalization and the status quo. As a first step, we could decriminalize marijuana, as Jean Chr├ętien pretended to want to do and as several American states have actually done.
Instead, the Canadian government proposes to enact a mandatory six-month minimum sentence for possession of as few as six marijuana plants. Think about that. If Canadians are going to smoke pot anyway — and they are — it is indisputably better that they grow it themselves on their own windowsills or in small-scale hydroponic operations, or purchase it from friends who do so, as opposed to buying it from a criminal dealer. Yet the tough-on-crime gang in Ottawa seems utterly determined to entrench marijuana production as strictly a criminal enterprise.

What’s important to remember is that drugs are harmful and definitely the Government needs to make this aware and continue to advocate abstinence. After that said, it serves no one any good to prevent anyone from using drugs. If you chose to take drugs and destroy your life, so be it. Be aware that you are not to impedes or harm the next person.
There’s a long list of history that shows society has never been close to controlling the use of drugs but rather inflamed the user and criminal activity.






 

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