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December 1, 2005 - Toronto Star (CN ON)

OPED: Legalize The Sale Of Drugs

By Ricardo Artunduaga

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Once again Toronto is rocked by a murder committed with a gun fired by a youth.

Once again we hear statements from politicians saying that new measures must be taken to diminish this new wave of violence.

Once again the police union pleads its case for more officers to join the force.

Once again alarms go off in the communities most affected by this barbarity.

Once again mothers are in despair, feeling powerless, asking themselves where they went wrong.

Once again, educators propose a return to segregated schools as a long-term solution.

And, once again, the people directly concerned say very little out of fear of being the next victims in this ongoing bloodbath.

But has any leader dared to say clearly that one of the main reasons for all of these killings is the criminalization of drugs?

Of course not. No one mentions this because, in this age of political correctness, no one dares to face sobering truths. Everyone preders to speak from a perspective that is less painful for listeners.

But isn't it about time we asked ourselves as a society if it is worthwhile to maintain the absurd policy of criminalizing drugs?

Is it worth continuing with the wall of silence trying to hide something that is an obvious fact?

Have any of us seen a murder in Canada caused by people trying to battle it out for the control of the alcohol or tobacco business?

Behind this recent wave of violence, the hand of the drug underworld is visible. The drug market, with its immense and inflated profits, always will represent a means of escape for those people society has left behind.

And it is a hypocritical society that, on one hand, condemns the murder of its younger members while, on the other, maintains the status quo by not coming up with serious alternatives to solve the problem.

It is very likely that, with the community's assistance, some of the individuals responsible for the recent shootings could be captured and brought to justice, because the same community that produces the dead also knows where the murderers are.

It's also likely that someday the police will show us the faces of the perpetrators of the current wave of violence, but that will not get to the root of the problem.

It simply will extinguish the people's wrath for a while. Amnesia will return to our newspapers and our newscasts until new actors appear on the stage, new youngsters made into men by force, willing to put their lives in jeopardy for a piece of paradise here on Earth, for the joys of consumerism that their families are unable to provide.

The politicians will go back to blaming each other, the mothers will continue to blame themselves and the educators will rethink alternatives to solve a problem that has only one definite solution.

Enough hypocrisy, enough temporary solutions. It's time for a definite solution: The legalization of the sale and consumption of drugs -- with strict controls by the state.

This would finish the gangs and their wicked influence over our most vulnerable citizens.

How long will we remain blind to this reality?

This is the only way to get to the root of the problems caused by the criminalization of drugs.

I grew up in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of one of the world's most violent cities, where three of my school friends were murdered, along with one of my teachers and one of my childhood friends.

Years later, I became a prosecutor and my job consisted of putting killers through the judicial system. You could say that I know this story from both sides: I was a victim of marginalization and attended too many funerals without understanding why we were killing each other.

I had the enormous advantage of realizing before it was too late that easy money was nothing but a mirage and took charge of my education as the only way out of a lost childhood.

In the two years that I was a prosecutor, I was assigned to investigate at least 40 homicides and was a helpless witness to the moral degradation of my society. I don't want my Canada to look like the country I left behind.

We still have time to straighten our treacherous path, no more Band-Aid solutions, no more "exhaustive investigations" and no more politically correct answers.

It is time to question the roots of this violence.

And despite the lack of social services, despite the budget cuts of the 1990s, despite the negative role models -- despite all of this -- there is above all the stupidest policy human beings have ever devised, the most absurd decision ever made by politicians all around the world: the criminalization of drugs.

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