July 31, 2016

Decriminalization desired

Panel argues the merits of drug legalization

Senator Larry Campbell (left) and Juan Carlos Hidalgo, the Latin America project co-ordinator for public policy research organization the Cato Institute.
Senator Larry Campbell (left) and Juan Carlos Hidalgo, the Latin America project co-ordinator for public policy research organization the Cato Institute.
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Prohibition on drugs in Canada should be reconsidered, says Senator Larry Campbell.

Campbell spoke on Wednesday night as part of a panel discussion on drug policy. The event, organized by the Institute of Liberal Studies and Queen’s Students for Liberty drew 50 students and community members to Dunning Hall.

Campbell spoke about the potentially negative impacts of drug laws alongside Juan Carlos Hidalgo, the Latin America project co-ordinator for public policy research organization the Cato Institute.

Campbell was involved with the 2003 creation of Insite, the first North American safe injection site for drug users in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. He has also worked for the RCMP as a drug squad officer, and was the chief coroner in B.C. Campbell said he remains supportive of safe injection sites for drug users.

“650 people inject in [Insite] every single day. We have never had a death,” he said in his address. “People do not quit heroin on our schedule. You can only get them that treatment when they are ready for it.”

Campbell said Canada’s current drug laws aren’t based on common sense. Prohibition, he said, is directly connected to violent crime through gangs.

“Any drug you prohibit, crime steps in. There is no question about it,” he said in his address. “Our drug laws destroy individuals, they destroy families, and they destroy communities.”

Legalization, Campbell said, makes it easier to regulate the production and sale of drugs. He said drugs should be regulated and sold in a similar fashion to tobacco and alcohol, which would deter individuals from making a profit off drugs.

“Say goodbye to gang involvement. The gangs will go somewhere else. They’ll move on to something else,” he said.

“When you enact laws, the critical thing should be that you should do no harm. If you stick with doing no harm, you’re heading in the right direction.”

Hidalgo spoke about drug trafficking in Latin America. He said the high rate of corruption and influence of drug cartels in Mexico has lead to skyrocketing murder rates.

“Mexico is not a failed state,” he said in his address. “But some areas struggle from state failure.”

Hidalgo said Portugal is an example of a successful decriminalization effort outside of Latin America and indicated that decriminalization doesn’t lead to an increase in drug use.

“By legalizing drugs, you tax it, you regulate it, and you can impose controls,” he said. “It does not mean you support people doing drugs.”

Hidalgo added that the current war on drugs in ineffectual.

“When you prohibit something, you make it profitable. You make the criminals run the business.” Though he believes that legalization will solve some problems, Hidalgo said there’s no perfect solution.

“Legalization is not a solution to the drug problem,” he said. “There is no silver bullet. It’s always a work in process.”

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