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Sensible Solutions to the Urban Drug Problem

Type: Research Studies
Date Published: August 22, 2001
Research Topics:
Crime & Drug Policy
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 .

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 treatment.

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 latest 'crisis.'

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 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.

Papers included in this publication (available only on the web) include:

Swiss Drug Policy: Harm Reduction and Heroin-Supported Therapy
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 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

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 of Reduction
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 Marijuana
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 University.
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