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September 21, 2007 - Langley Advance (CN BC)

Column: Legalized Drugs Could Save Lives

By Matthew Claxton, Langley Advance

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Here's a few headlines you won't see any time soon:

* Coors Kingpin Held In Murder Of Molson's Godfather

* Police Blame Massacre On Whiskey Dealers

* Tobacco Pusher Gunned Down In Drive-By

* New Strain Of Booze Kills Addicts

We don't see headlines like this because the drugs involved, alcohol and nicotine, are legally available. You can follow government guidelines to make them, sell them, ingest them and even commit slow suicide, if that's your pleasure.

And they will indeed kill you. Alcoholism can destroy relationships, job opportunities, and futures, not to mention the damage it does to the body. The mayhem a drunk driver can cause behind the wheel is apparent every day.

Tobacco addiction doesn't have those nasty psychological effects, but it does come with a free copy of Cancer's Greatest Hits: From Lips to Lungs.

So why are alcohol and tobacco legal, while cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamines are illegal?

I've come to the conclusion that the only reason we outlaw some drugs is because we want to see even more people die.

I think we should legalize drugs. All of them.

This is probably a good place to put in a disclaimer: hey, kids, don't do drugs. Don't put anything in your body that wasn't prescribed by a doctor.

If you do that, you'll only be living a life a little cleaner than my own.

I have never been drunk. I have never been high. I have no desire to ever get stoned, I can't even stand the smell of pot at a concert. If you offer me hard drugs, you are no friend of mine.

When I was eight, one of my relatives explained to me in great detail how he almost died of a drug overdose, and how addiction to crack cocaine had whittled him down bit by bit, until he was just a shell of a human, a man-shaped thing that sought out hit after hit.

Since then, I have met people addicted to a variety of drugs, many of them still making trips to their dealers, others undergoing the private struggle to stay clean.

None of this, as far as I can see, justifies creating a huge criminal infrastructure.

When the government outlaws the production and sale of drugs, it subsidizes criminals and thugs.

According to a 2004 study, 45 per cent of all Canadians have used illicit drugs at least once. Prohibition has been a massive failure, and until we realize that, we are living in a dream world. More cops on the street will not solve the problem; more junkies in jail won't help.

Legalize drugs, and we can forget about grow ops destroying houses, about chemicals from meth labs being dumped in local creeks. We can stop worrying that the Hells Angels or the Big Circle Boys are controlling the drug trade; the trade will be controlled by dull pharmaceutical firm executives.

The life of an addict, I admit, will still be miserable. But a few things will be better. With drugs made legally, dosages and purity will be standard. Accidental overdoses will be less frequent.

The petty property crime that is necessary to pay for drugs - one of the most massively marked-up products in the world - will drop.

The most important thing to do for a society contemplating this legalization is to spend the money needed for education and treatment. The policing money saved has to go into realistic and comprehensive warnings, and help for the people who ignore those warnings. Then we can start dealing with the problem.

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