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By Hempology | November 17, 2005

A new study to be presented in the House of Commons could add a little more fuel to the already sparking debate around the legalisation of drugs in Canada.

The study, recently released by the Health Officers council of BC, recommends that “hard” drugs such as heroine and cocaine be legalised in a regulated, not for profit manner. It supports putting drug manufacture and distribution into a public health framework rather than an illegal one, with the goal of reducing harm to both addicts and society at large.

Richard Mathias, a professor of public health at UBC and a specialist in community medicine, is also one of the authors of the study. He believes that a prohibitionist approach to drugs does more harm than good. “All prohibition does is encourage people to take great risks for great rewards,” he said.

However, Mathias thinks the implications of the term ‘legalisation’ poses problems. “Legalisation does not equal free market, and we are not in any way proposing a free market.”

Instead, the study proposes that a regulatory body that isn’t motivated by profit, oversee the making and selling of the substances.

The study also says that regulated legalisation would help solve some of the current safety issues around drug use. Controlling the production of these drugs would regulate what goes into the drugs and help reduce the risk of overdosing because the concentration of the drug would be clearly labeled.

Rehabilitation, said Mathias, is the solution to drug addiction. “Rehabilitation is to try and get people, even with their addiction, up and running so that it will help them function as well as they can,” said Mathias.

“When they decide that they need to get rid of their addiction then we have to have treatment available then, that day, that hour,” he said.

There is strong opposition to the study’s recommendations, however. Sgt. Toby Hinton, representative of Odd Squad Productions and longtime police officer in the Downtown Eastside, doesn’t believe that legalisation will solve the problem. Prohibition is not the cause of the problem, it is drug addiction itself, he said.

Sgt Hinton agrees that rehabilitation is a solution, but he thinks that the illegality of drugs and the enforcement of anti-drug laws also go a long way in helping control the problem.

Instead of helping with drug related problems, Hinton believes that the legalisation of hard drugs will result in more problems for police officers.

“If you’re going to legalise these [hard] drugs you better be ready to hire more police officers, just based on our experience with alcohol. The societal demands on policing will be higher and there will be more crimes with drugs as a factor than there were before,” he said.


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