Vancouver Island University professor says our failed drug policies need to be revisited
By: Walter Cordery, Daily News
Vancouver Island University professor of criminology John Anderson has been advocating for a reasoned approach to our current, "failed" drug policies since 1989.
He started to realize things needed to change as a university student after reading the evidence purporting to support prohibitionist policy and found it suspect.
Before getting a PhD, Anderson, now the vice president of the Canadian Chapter of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, he served as a correctional officer for five years in the maximum-security Vancouver Pretrial Centre.
Anderson participated in drug seizures and various efforts to control drug contraband within the prison. On several occasions, he dealt with the violence sparked by drug trafficking in prison.
"I felt somewhat guilty enforcing the very drug laws I knew were creating the problems, Anderson said.
The professor believes resources are being wasted in Canada's continuing war on drugs under the current federal government.
He said he believes the emphasis has been misplaced.
"I was particularly disturbed to see drug addicts were not given enough medical services to help them through withdrawal, let alone cope with life upon release.
"Instead, we spend vast resources trying to prohibit drugs in a free society. How can we keep drugs out of a free society when, as I witnessed, we can't even keep them out of maximum-security prisons?"
LEAP is an organization of current and former peace officers and there supporters who have seen the failure of the war on drugs.
Anderson fears the federal government's new omnibus crime bill will not stop organized crime from controlling the illicit drug market in Canada.
"More than 70% of cannabis charges in this country are for simple possession of marijuana," he said.
"This government's new legislation is going to make young people criminals for possession of an herb that is far less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol."
While Canada is cracking down on marijuana possession, Anderson said the United States is progressing ahead of Canada when it comes to the decriminalization of marijuana.
He cited the narrow defeat of a referendum in California and the fact that 16 states are moving towards decriminalization of possession, many of which will have initiatives on the ballot in November.