Tag Archives: War on drugs

Michael Ignatieff Gets Smart On Crime

Yesterday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that downgrades the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction.

On September 28th at the during the first of his weekly Open Mike town hall forums to be held throughout the fall Mr. Ignatieff said Liberals would reintroduce Martin Cauchon’s bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. He also reiterated his support for Insite saying “The Liberals would like to see Vancouver’s Insite safe-injection sites replicated across the country.”

As California gears up to pass Proposition 19, legalizing cannabis, in November, Michael Ignatieff is laying the ground work for the Liberal Party to win the national cannabis debate that will be set off by that vote. For four years Stephen Harper/Vic Toews/Rob Nicholson have worked so hard to suppress real, evidence-based debate. The decriminalization law signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger will turn the debate from ideology to reality. Soon Prime Minister Harper will have to defend his dumb-on-crime agenda that has wasted billions, attacked the provinces’ right to administer health care, worked to deprive Canadian police of a valuable crime-fighting tool, helped fund gangs all while crime in Canada is on the decline.

It is great to see Michael Ignatieff being progressive and proactive.

Ignatieff/Liberals receive some courage from the Wizard.

Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party have apparently grown a pair and they are valiantly/finally/thankfully standing up to the Conservatives on their regressive dumb-on-crime bill that would fill Canada’s prisons and costs us all $10 Billion. Canadians appreciate courage and abhor posturing. My message to Michael Ignatieff: Hold your ground. Debate the bill publicly. Courage > bravado.

Some thoughts:

  • 13 of the 16 witnesses who spoke before the justice committee during public hearings in the spring, denounced the bill.
  • Prime Minister Harper killed the bill by proroguing parliament. Keep that fact in mind any time Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says it is urgent that the bill be passed without any scrutiny or dissent.
  • The bill will cost an estimated $10 Billion. The Conservatives estimated the cost originally in the millions. It seems like the CPC is working on a bringing an American-style Prison Industrial Complex to Canada.
  • Mark Holland: “What is the impact going to be on other services at a time when the Conservatives are running a more than $40-billion deficit? These prisons become a giant vacuum that sucks up everything else.”
  • The bill would set a mandatory minimum jail sentence for anyone arrested with a certain number of marijuana plants (originally 5 then changed by the senate to 200 then reduced again) which would tie judge’s hands. Studies have shown that arresting non-violent offenders drastically increases the chance that when released they will commit another crime. Crime rates have been declining in Canada so it’s not as if this bill is desperately needed (Harper’s prorogation confirms that analysis.) The Conservatives know that their policy is merely posturing so they throw people who are in possession of a drug (cannabis) that is no more harmful than alcohol, forging them (in prison) into real hardened criminals, then releasing them into the general population. This costs taxpayers money but the cost to society in much higher than that.
  • The Liberals have switched on this bill and many Liberals are coming around on the A.G. audit. In the United States, President Obama and the Democrats have finally realized that the Republicans are going to oppose everything they do, no matter what. Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals need to learn that the Conservatives will scream, stomp, distort and deceive no matter what the Liberals do. If you are going to be attacked no matter what, do the right thing.

Some graphs on crime statistics in Canada:

Measure to legalize marijuana will be on the ballot in California

It takes a petition of 8% registered voters in California to get a measure on the ballot in that state. Recently, a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in the Golden State (with 694 248 signatures) which will be voted on in November of this year.

Canadian Senator Elaine McCoy‘s assessment is worth a close read:

California will vote on a proposition to legalize marijuana in November.  Proponents are touting it as a new source of government revenues, hoping to garner support from citizens who’ve resisted raising taxes to such an extent that their state is now bankrupt.  They also cite escalating violence in Mexico as a reason to remove marijuana from the list of prohibited drugs.

Canada should consider a similar move.  We’ve already legitimized marijuana for medical purposes.  However, licenced quantities are so minimal as to make a cat laugh.  Legitimate users therefore track other suppliers … as do the police.  A Toronto raid last week shut down a popular (regrettably unlicenced) retailer, for example.  Thousands of apparently authorized buyers are now looking for an alternative supplier.

Where will they go?  If they turn to sellers linked to criminal gangs, will their increased demand set off fierce competition amongst suppliers all too happy to enforce “franchise areas” through violent means?  If so, a vicious circle ensues – more police, more prisons, more costs all round.  A much more rational response would be to legalize marijuana, removing costs on the one hand and opening up a whole new revenue base on the other.  Unlikely to happen here, I agree, given the current state of politics in Canada.  But if California goes that way, others are sure to follow. “

Also in the world of Canadian cannabis:

Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Ross Landry has apparently been considering the merits of decriminalization. A case in the Supreme Court of N.S. ruled that their government is obligated to pay for medical marijuana. “I never have a problem if the medical community says this is the best remedy for a person’s health and well-being,” Landry said. “So on that basic principle, I support the medical community. If the court has made a decision, I respect the decision of the court and will look from an administrative perspective of how we move the interests of the court forward.” The reason for decriminalization would not be a traditional one (the failure of the war on drugs, potential tax revenue, focus on prevention, etc.) but because the cost of medical marijuana would add to Nova Scotia’s debt.

Remembering the interview Prime Minister Harper took part in on the youtube where the majority of Canadians polled disagreed with Stephen Harper/the Conservative Party of Canada’s objectively stupid stance on drugs with the proposition in California and Nova Scotia being forced into bravely leading the way on cannabis, perhaps it is time for a re-thinking of federal crime policy?

Stephen Harper/the CPC’s Attack on ‘Insite’ is a Disgrace

Insite, a supervised injection site and drug addiction centre, is located in Vancouver, British Columbia. Insite provides a safe environment for drug users to use the narcotics they are addicted to without the dangers of getting infections like HIV/Hepatitis C from dirty needs or dying from a overdose.

Some facts about Insite:

  • Insite opened in 2003.
  • From 1990 to 2007 there were 4000 overdose deaths in British Columbia (none of these occurred at Insite.)
  • Since Insite opened there has been no increase in drug use in the area.
  • There has been a 70% decrease in needle sharing in the area since Insite opened.
  • Injecting narcotics like cocaine and heroin publicly has decreased dramatically in the area from 2003 to today.
  • The goal of Insite is to help addicts learn how to control drug usage with the long-term goal of getting off drugs entirely.
  • Drug related crime has not increased in the area (trafficking, assault, robbery, vehicle related theft.)

A Timeline of Insite’s Legal status:

2003

  • When Insite was opened in September 2003, it was originally awarded a three-year exemption from Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, for scientific and research purposes.

2006

  • In September 2006, the Federal Health Minister announced an extension to the site’s exemption that allowed Insite to operate for another 15 months.

2007

  • In October 2007 the exemption was extended until June 30, 2008.
  • In August 2007, the PHS Community Services Society, the two Insite clients and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) filed a statement of claim in BC Supreme Court seeking to have the court declare Insite the exclusive jurisdiction of the province and for the federal government not to play any role in its future.

2008

  • In May 2008, the BC Supreme Court struck down the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that deal with possession and trafficking but suspended the declarations of invalidity for one year to allow Parliament to bring the law into compliance with the Constitution, and the Court’s reasons, which ensure Insite a permanent constitutional exemption. The Attorney General of Canada appealed the decision.2010 On January 15, 2010, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by the Attorney General of Canada, allowing Insite to continue operations.

2010

  • On January 15, 2010, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by the Attorney General of Canada, allowing Insite to continue operations.

—————————————————————————————————

Facts about drugs/crime in Canada:

  • In 2007 the Violent Crime rate in Canada was at a 20 year low.
  • Property crime is 40% less than 1991.
  • First nations make up 3% of Canada’s population but 17% of Canada’s prison population.
  • 11% of Canada’s fedral prison population is certified mental health patients at the time of incarceration.
  • In 2008 the federal government paid $93 030 per prisoner – there are 13581 inmates in jail, at a cost of around $1 Billion.
  • 2008 World Health Organization (WHO) report on 17 countries found no correlation between strict drug laws and fewer people using drugs.
  • 2010 – Angus Reid Poll – 62% of Canadians support capital punishment for murders
  • This is an increase from 2004 when it was 48%
  • 65% support mandatory minimums for drug crimes
  • The majority polled said they didn’t think they would be personally affected by crime/little chance of being victims     of crime.
  • Federal Treasury Board documents how that 73% of the $368 million the gov’t spent targeting illicit drugs in 2004-2005 was spent on enforcement (these percentages have not changed greatly from 2005-2010.)
  • 7% research.
  • 14% treatment.
  • 2.6% prevention.
  • 2.6% harm reduction.
  • 50 000 Canadians are charged with criminal possession of marijuana a year.
  • 1999 University of New Brunswick examined 50 studies on recidivism that covered more than 300, 000 offenders – the longer someone spent in jail, the more likely they were to commit another crime when they got out – most significant among non-violent/low-risk offenders.
  • From 2006-2009 Stephen Harper’s government put forward 17 crime related bills.

—————————————————————————————————

Ottawa to appeal injection site ruling

The federal government is asking the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal a lower court ruling that sanctioned Vancouver’s supervised drug injection site.

The case has raised important questions about the division of powers among federal and provincial governments that need answers, said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on Parliament Hill Tuesday.

“The case we’ll be presenting before the court is to ask for clarification,” he said. “I think it is important to do that.”

Nicholson pointed out that there was a dissenting opinion in the lower court ruling. “I think it is appropriate for me to seek leave to appeal,” he said.

The minister agreed that drug addicts need assistance, pointing out that the federal government’s anti-drug strategy is aimed at prevention, and treatment for addicts.

The B.C. Appeal Court ruled Jan. 15 that provinces, not the federal government, have jurisdiction for health care, which includes services such as supervised injection sites for addicts of illegal street drugs.

The January decision upheld a lower court ruling, but the federal government is appealing on the basis that there was one dissenting opinion in the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling.

The Conservative government’s decision to launch an appeal is certain to disappoint proponents of the facility who had hoped that more injection sites could open in other cities.

Mark Townsend, executive director of Portland Health Society, which runs Vancouver’s Insite facility said, “The courts have now ruled twice in favour of Insite. Last time, they thought the feds were so out of line they made them pay all the costs.

“We wish [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper would stop wasting court time and the taxpayers’ money and start helping to solve the drug problem in our community,” he said in statement released Tuesday morning.

—————————————————————————————————
 

What Conclusions can be drawn from the Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party’s attack on Insite/their regressive crime policies?

Stephen Harper wants Vancouver property values to plummet:

Insite has been effective in reducing public drug use. Stephen Harper would prefer that heroin/cocaine addicts shoot up in down-town Vancouver. Closing down Insite would increase crime and public drug use in the Vancouver area, this would negatively affect property value in Vancouver.

Stephen Harper wants to waste tax-payer money:

2006 study from UCLA on Calfornia’s Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (of 2000) concluded that investment in drug treatment actually saves the public $2.50 for every $1 put into the program.

Property crimes go up in areas with a 100% enforcement, 0% treatment policy in effect.

Keeping Canadians in jail is expensive and having non-violent criminals in jail leads to more crime which costs the tax-payer even more.

In California (a state with a population comparable to Canada’s) it has been estimated that legalization of cannabis would take in $1.2 Billion for California’s government. Canada has more cannabis users than California and could take that money to pay down the debt.

Prime Minister Harper has wasted tax-payer money challenging Insite in court.

Stephen Harper is soft on crime:

Gangs in Vancouver are funded by the sales of marijuana. The price of marijuana is artificially high and lets these gangs fund their Meth/Ecstasy labs. Prime Minister Harper’s policies keep these gangs well funded by keeping a drug less harmful than alcohol that results in zero reported deaths each year (less than caffeine) illegal.

Policemen have to waste enforcing cannabis/marijuana laws instead of going after criminals who produce dangerous narcotics like Methylamphetamines.

Prime Minister Harper’s jailing of non-violent/low-risk cannabis users will create more criminals.

Under Prime Minister Harper’s watch Canada has risen to 5th highest in amount of Meth exported.

Minister Nicholson said that the Conservative government is focusing on treatment but the government still spends the vast majority of money marked from fighting drug-crime on enforcement.

Stephen Harper wants to centralize government control:

Health Care is the responsibility of the provinces but Prime Minister Harper is going all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a decision made by the government of B.C. This is the man who once advised the Premier of Alberta to “build a firewall” around his province. What else does Prime Minister Harper want to upload to the federal government?

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s Mandatory Minimum of Hypocrisy

“In 1988, Mr. Nicholson vice-chaired a Parliamentary committee that released a report recommending mandatory minimum sentences not be used, except in the case of repeat violent sexual offenders. The committee found, based on testimony and the U.S. experience, that the law didn’t work and increases prison populations” reports The Hill Times.

That is a very sensible position. As sexual offenders of any kind do pose a threat to society mandatory jail sentences are necessary not only as a deterrent but also to remove those individuals from society. As drug addiction only harms society because prohibition raises the price of drugs allowing gangs to thrive and more than 2/3 of government funding of the “War on Drugs” goes to enforcement with very little going towards treatment/prevention mandatory minimums for drug offenses are ineffective and regressive.

Rob Nicholson of 2006-2010 has spent his time in government attacking the Liberal Party of Canada, falsely, for being “soft on crime” for opposing the same failed policies that Rob Nicholson of 1988 opposed. The Winnipeg Free Press and the Toronto Sun have both recently taken Stephen Harper’s do nothing government to the woodshed blaming Liberal Senators for the Conservative Government’s own “dumb on crime” approach.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

From “Record doesn’t support PM’s claim that Liberal senators have blocked crime bills” :

Nicholson insisted the record shows “the Liberals are soft on crime.” He accused Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff of making a show of supporting tough legislation in the Commons but then allowing Liberal senators to “obstruct, delay and gut some of our most important measures.”

But he could point to only three specific bills: C-15; C-26, a bill to crack down on auto thefts; and C-25, a bill to end the practice of crediting convicts with two days of time served for each day spent behind bars before trial.

C-25 is not, perhaps, the best example for the government to dredge up. After a mere 19 days in the upper chamber (compared to 36 days in the Commons), the so-called “Truth in Sentencing” act was in fact passed by senators last Oct. 21. It received royal assent the following day.

Yet, after all the badgering of supposedly foot-dragging senators, cabinet decided it could wait four months – until Feb. 22 – to actually bring the law into force.

“They could’ve made it effective the next day,” Liberal Senate leader James Cowan said in an interview.

“If ever there was an example of the facts differing from their rhetoric, that’s a pretty good one.”

On C-26, Nicholson complained the bill has been “stuck” in the Senate for six months.

But the six-month tally doesn’t take into account the fact that the bill was handed over to the Senate just before Parliament broke for the summer. By the Liberals’ count, the bill had actually been before the Senate for 38 working days by the time of prorogation – four days fewer than it took to get through the Commons.

Indeed, the Senate has regularly spent far less time examining and voting on bills than the House of Commons, which has taken as much as 95 days on some crime legislation that never got beyond second reading debate.

Given the government’s own foot-dragging, Cowan questions whether Harper is really serious about passing his criminal justice agenda, or simply wants an excuse to keep reintroducing measures that allow him to bash the Senate and accuse the Liberals of being “soft on crime.”

“It makes you wonder if they’d rather talk about it than actually do it.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

From “Harper not so tough on crime“:

Of those, 11 were sitting somewhere on the Commons agenda, and only three bills were anywhere near the Senate at the time of their demise.

One of those three, one repealing the so-called “faint hope” clause for lifers, arrived in the Senate less than two weeks before the place went dark.

The second bill that died in the Senate when Harper prorogued parliament dealt with auto theft, and went to committee in the upper chamber the week before the Christmas recess.

The third piece of legislation lost in Harper’s official lights-out provided mandatory minimum prison terms for anyone caught with more than five marijuana plants.

That bill was so urgent that it first was introduced by the Conservative government in 2007, but was killed by Harper’s calling of the 2008 election. It was resurrected, debated and died again when Harper recently shut down parliament.

Thank goodness the prime minister has stuffed another five political pals in the Senate.

The world will surely be a safer place.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

Though Justice Minister Nicholson has had a change of heart on mandatory minimums, Canadians have more than enough evidence to be certain that Stephen Harper will be maintaining the mandatory minimum of hypocrisy required to be part of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Michael Ignatieff: For Decriminalization. Against Legalization. It’s a start.

Two Great Posts by bloggers who were at Michael Ignatieff’s event at the University of Victoria can be found at: Too Much Geography and Unambiguously Ambidextrous.

At the event Michael Ignatieff was asked about Marijuana usage and Ross Rebagliati to which the Liberal Leader responded:

I never make comments on the personal lifestyle choices of my colleagues and friends, and I’ve never felt that marijuana use or, for example, possession of small amounts of marijuana are to be criminalized or that anybody should suffer consequences for personal recreational uses of marijuana. But then I have to say to people who then ask me if I want to legalize marijuana, and I know you don’t want to hear me say this, but I’d say no.

————————————————————————————————

This has been a solid week for Canadians who support progressive drug policy. On Thursday a Toronto Judge Howard Borenstein announced he was preparing to declare marijuana laws unconstitutional (he is going to make his ruling official in two weeks) and on Friday Stephen Harper got pwned by the B.C. Court of Appeal who dismissed the federal government’s case against Insite which confirmed the injection site’s constitutional right to exist.

The fact that Michael Ignatieff has now publicly spoken in favour of decriminalizing cannabis is huge. When compared to Stephen Harper’s regressive crime policies this is a gutsy proclamation by the opposition leader.

I am disappointed that Michael Ignatieff is against legalization of cannabis. This was a brief answer so I will hold out for more nuance from Mr. Ignatieff before denouncing his support of prohibition.

The arguments in favour of legalization (cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, it has numerous medical benefits, casual use can actually be beneficial, prohibition funds gang while wasting taxpayer money on enforcement, legalization/effective legalization in Portugal/the Netherlands didn’t lead to increased usage,  the war on drugs has failed so badly, Stephen Harper is against legalization) are stronger than those in favour of prohibition. Hopefully Michael Ignatieff, a former professor, will be convinced by the logic/sensibility of legalization and change his mind.

————————————————————————————————

Post Script:

“The Equivocator” is looking expand “Liberals for Legalization.” I have a button on the side of my blog. Feel free to contact me if you are a member of the LPC and you believe in lobbying for progressive drug policy. If you want to add the button to your blog please feel free.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty Returns my e-mail

On January 8th I e-mailed Minister Jim Flaherty to express my opposition to the prorogation of parliament and give Canada’s finance minister some suggestions for the next budget. As I live in two worlds, Toronto and Whitby, he is one of my representatives in the House of Commons. Mr. Flaherty has been representing me since I was 8 years old.

My suggestions for the budget were as follows:
- There should be funding set aside specifically for high-speed rail. Bombardier is an excellent Canadian company and “bullet trains” would unite our country and make it much easier for labour to come to demand.

- There should be more funding for Kevin Page. The PBO is an important office and your government hasn’t given him the resources to do his job.

- In a perfect world your government would announce the planning of more nuclear reactors. Nuclear power is safe and environmentally friendly.

- There should be funding for safe-injection sites. Your government spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year fighting a failed war on drugs. If the Conservative Government legalized cannabis and taxed or sold cannabis you would gain more than a billion dollars (and save hundreds of millions by not having to enforce laws that don’t work.)

Today I received a response:

Thank you for your email.

Your feedback with respect to the proroguing of Parliament and the upcoming budget is important and I will be sure to bring it to Mr. Flaherty’s attention.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that during this period that the house will not be sitting, Mr. Flaherty will continue to represent his constituents in the Whitby-Oshawa riding addressing any concerns that arise.

In addition, Mr. Flaherty is travelling across Canada holding budget consultations allowing Canadians to input their concerns and ideas regarding the upcoming 2010 budget, giving them a more direct hand in the democratic process.

Should you have further comments or concerns, please do not hesitate contacting me at your convenience.

Thank you again for writing.

Best regards,

Thomas Coughlan

Office of the Honourable Jim Flaherty, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Finance and M.P. for Whitby-Oshawa/

Cabinet de l’honorable Jim Flaherty, C.P., député

Ministre des Finances et député de Whitby-Oshawa