The war on drugs is lost and prohibition has been a complete
failure. These are the conclusions of Sensible Solutions to the Urban Drug Problem a series of policy papers released today by The Fraser Institute.
Originally based on papers presented to two Fraser Institute
conferences, the authors suggest a wide range of options to
this failed war, from harm reduction and medicalization,
through to the decriminalization or legalization of drugs from
marijuana to heroin. Harm reduction, for example, changes the
focus from policing to mitigating the negative effects of drug
use through policies and programs that focus on addiction
Canadian governments-federal and provincial-have seldom given
serious thought to drug policy, preferring instead to follow
whatever variation on failure is being proposed during the
"This thinking has only served to enrich organized crime,
corrupt governments and law enforcement officials, spread
diseases such as HIV, hinder health care, and feed into an
ever-growing law enforcement and penal industry," says Fred
McMahon, director of the Fraser Institute's social affairs
The authors of the papers argue that the evidence-societal,
scientific, and anecdotal-shows that most of the serious
problems we associate with illegal drug use are caused directly
or indirectly, not by drug use itself, but by drug prohibition.
It is only by separating drug use from drug prohibition that
one is able to assess whether or not the harmful side effects
of prohibition overwhelm the benefits of supposed lower drug
consumption and the resulting lower social costs.
"Drug prohibition has all the characteristics of numerous other
well-intentioned, yet expensive, counterproductive government
programs that have outlived any usefulness," says Patrick
Basham of the Cato Institute, in his introductory chapter.
"Drug prohibition reflects our failure to learn from history;
drug prohibition causes crime; drug prohibition corrupts police
officers; drug prohibition violates civil liberties and
individual rights; drug prohibition throws good money after
bad; and drug prohibition weakens-at times, even
destroys-families, neighbourhoods, and communities," he
Perhaps the greatest tragedy arising from the war on drugs is
the devastation it has brought to the poor nations of Latin
America and, to a lesser extent, Asia and the Middle East. It
has undermined the growth of democratic institutions and
trapped innocent civilians in a never-ending battle between
terrorists, militias, and government forces.
"Canada's active support for prohibition is helping to
destabilize countries around the world," says Eugene Oscapella,
a prominent lawyer in Ottawa and a founding member of the
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy. Oscapella contributed
"Witch Hunts and Chemical McCarthyism: The Criminal Law and
20th Century Canadian Drug Policy" to this collection of
Papers contributed to this publication include:
Swiss Drug Policy: Harm Reduction and Heroin-Supported
Martin Buechi is head of the Section for Policy and Research,
and the deputy vice-director of the Swiss Federal Office of
Public Health. Ueli Minder is the drug policy coordinator in
the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.
Drugs, Violence and Public Health: What Does the
Harm-Reduction Approach Have to Offer?
Patricia Erickson is Senior Scientist at the Addiction and
Mental Health Services Corporation in Toronto.
The Empires Strike Back
The late Gil Puder was a decorated 16-year veteran of the
Vancouver Police Department and instructor at the British
Columbia Police Academy.
Psychoactive Substances in Canada: Levels of Harm and Means
Robin Room is Professor and Director of the Centre for Social
Research on Alcohol and Drugs at Stockholm University, Sweden.
Canadian Attitudes towards Decriminalizing The Use of
Daniel Savas is Senior Vice-President of Ipsos Reid, Canada's
leading market research and public opinion company.
Medicalization: A "Third Way" to Drug Policy
Jeffrey Singer is a general surgeon in private practice in
Phoenix Arizona, where he also served as Medical Spokesperson
for Arizonans for Drug Policy Reform.
The Economic Cost of the War on Drugs
Richard Stevenson directs the Health Economics Unit and
lectures in the Department of Economics at Liverpool
For additional information on Canadian drug policy, contact
Eugene Oscapella (613) 238-5909.