Dan Gardner: For Years, Everyone Saw This Coming 

  Dan Gardner: For Years, Everyone Saw This Coming 

Posted by CN Staff on March 05, 2005 at 08:34:47 PT
By Dan Gardner 
Source: Ottawa Citizen 

In the eight years that I have been studying and critiquing the war on marijuana, I've occasionally been asked why I spend so much time on an issue many people think is, at best, trivial. I answered by citing the involvement of major organized crime networks, the billions of dollars spent on enforcement, and the criminalization of hundreds of thousands of otherwise lawful citizens for consuming a substance that is, by any fair measure, less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.
But today there is a simpler response: Four men are dead.Let this be the end of scant attention, of dismissive comments, of news stories laced with trivializing puns and juvenile jokes. Marijuana is an urgent issue of public policy. The police complained for years that the media and the public do not appreciate that this is a serious matter, that the spread of grow-ops is a risk to public safety, that good men and women are in jeopardy every time they bang on a door with a search warrant. They were right all along. Let us respect the police by treating the issue with the same solemnity and gravity they surely feel while contemplating the deaths of their comrades. That means, among others things, not acting rashly. It is only human that the shock and sorrow of such a crime would give way to anger and an urge to hit hard and fast.Already there have been calls for tougher enforcement and harsher laws, including severe mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana growers. Anne McLellan, the public safety minister, says government is considering just that, while RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli has promised a crackdown and a renewed commitment to making "a drug-free Canada."But to treat the issue with solemnity and gravity means precisely to take care that passion does not overwhelm judgment. It means gathering the evidence, examining the arguments and thinking hard about the way forward. It means asking ourselves how it ever came to be that police officers were murdered because of a plant.That's all marijuana is, after all. It's just a plant, a common and easily grown one. In many cultures, its consumption was lawful for millennia. And in all that time, the bond between thugs, mayhem, murder and marijuana that we see today did not exist.That changed early in the 20th century. In 1923, Canada -- with not a word of discussion in Parliament -- banned marijuana. Other countries -- motivated as Canada was by a toxic mix of popular myths, pseudo-science and racism -- did the same. The moment they did, the trade left the hands of law-abiding producers and fell to the exclusive control of criminals. That control, not any property of the drug itself, is the steel link between marijuana and crime.At the same time in the U.S., Prohibition created precisely the same link between alcohol and crime -- the only difference being that it was broken when alcohol was legalized in 1933.This brief history is relatively uncontroversial. Aside from a few zealots who still cling to the fantasy that there is something about the chemistry of marijuana that makes users more inclined to crime, no one really disputes that the bond between marijuana and crime is exclusively the result of the fact marijuana is illegal. The grow-ops, the gangsters and, yes, the dangers faced by police officers enforcing the law: All these exist because of a policy decision."The way we've done it now is marijuana has become the exclusive prerogative of the criminal element because there's such fantastic profit in it," said Nick Taylor, a former Alberta senator. "I'm not saying that the four men would be alive if we had legalized marijuana, but I suspect they might be."Legalization would undeniably break the link between marijuana and crime. That's a major reason why a Senate Special Committee recommended that marijuana be legalized and regulated.Unfortunately, the police ignored the senators and their 650-page report -- one of the most comprehensive ever produced in any country -- and instead pressed for more resources and tougher laws. The government, too, never gave the Senate report the slightest consideration. Instead, the Liberals introduced a bill that would "decriminalize" the possession of small amounts of marijuana -- meaning a ticket instead of a criminal charge -- while boosting the maximum sentences for large-scale growers. And this was before the murders on Thursday and Ms. McLellan's promise to consider further sentencing increases for growers.If this issue is to be treated seriously, this dismissiveness must end, and a real discussion must be had. The Liberal policy convention in Ottawa this weekend offers a real hope for just that.Two resolutions are on the agenda: One calls for tougher sentences on grow operators; the other calls for the legalization of marijuana. It's a good chance to ask some hard questions.Most basically, why does anyone think harsher sentences will accomplish anything? The police say this will deter would-be growers, noting that in the United States, producers and traffickers are punished far more severely. But criminological research consistently shows tougher sentences do not deter crime. And the police never mention that despite the tough U.S. sentences, and the immense sums of money spent fighting the war on marijuana, government reports routinely find the U.S. is awash in marijuana, and the largest source of it is the United States itself.Recent Canadian history makes the same point. In the early 1960s, Canada's already tough drug laws were made tougher on the advice of the top U.S. drug official, who insisted that longer sentences deterred drug crime. And almost immediately after the new sentences came into force, drug production, dealing and use began to soar -- and kept on rising for almost two decades, even at a time when the simple possession of a joint could mean serious jail time.Here's a simpler question: Can those who support a crackdown name any country in which tougher law enforcement has successfully suppressed the illicit marijuana trade? A few years ago, a United Nations report attempted to dismiss the argument that drug prohibition is futile by pointing out that there was one successful example: Maoist China. Assuming we wish to remain a liberal democracy, what basis do those advocating a crackdown on marijuana production have for thinking it will do anything more than put more officers' lives at risk?As always, reasonable people can differ on this issue, and if those who insist on sticking with prohibition have a case to make -- with evidence, not the assumptions and conjecture that too often pass for argument -- I want to hear it. Honest disagreement is honourable.Hypocrisy isn't. Over the years I've had many private conversations about drugs with politicians, political staff, senior civil servants, journalists and police officers. And what I hear in private is not what I hear in public. In Official Ottawa, a remarkable number of people -- including some renowned and powerful figures -- think the war on marijuana is nothing less than ludicrous. And, truth be told, more than a few like to smoke an occasional joint.As long as marijuana could be dismissed as a trivial issue, this hypocrisy could be shrugged off as a venal sin. But now four men are dead.They died in pursuit of a futile policy, and if that policy doesn't change more officers will put themselves at risk and sooner or later more names will be etched into the police memorials.More than anything, treating the issue with due solemnity and gravity requires honesty. It is time those who have kept silent to find their courage and speak up.Note: Four police officers murdered over a common plant. That, put simply, is why the legalization of marijuana must be treated as an urgent issue of public policy, writes Dan Gardner, who has spent years studying the war on the drug. -- Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)Author: Dan GardnerPublished: Saturday, March 5, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Ottawa CitizenContact: letters thecitizen.canwest.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Marketing Marijuana Mythology Not The Problem Here Aims To Get Tough on MJ Grow-ops's Time for Canada To Legalize Cannabis 

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Comment #11 posted by afterburner on March 08, 2005 at 05:24:51 PT
Mixed Blessing and Curse
Mar. 8, 2005. 01:00 AM 
Police push for team to target grow ops
Drug squad can't keep up: Report"The report was prepared in response to a request by city hall long before last week's slaying of four RCMP constables in Alberta that was initially linked to a police raid on a suspected grow op."Interim police Chief Mike Boyd's reaction to the tragedy last week was in sharp contrast to other law enforcement officials and politicians who immediately pressed for a crackdown and tougher sentences on marijuana grow operators."He said the focus at this time should be on the dead officers, not on pushing a specific agenda."
The Toronto Star - you know what to do 
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Comment #10 posted by Hope on March 06, 2005 at 08:23:27 PT
Right on, Ben.
We've always known we were up against a system without reason or even a shred of common sense.You are so right.Why don't they go ahead and make it a mandatory life sentence for growing? Then they could really start the blood to flowing and holler, "Look at this! Look at this! We told you how dangerous they were!".It's hard to resist cursing the prohibitionists. But why? They curse themselves as it is...trouble is they spread their curse to entire nations.
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Comment #9 posted by ben on March 05, 2005 at 20:32:49 PT
Crazy People Smoke Herb Too
Anybody in thier right mind would not shoot anyone for
20 plants and saying this man was protecting his grow op
is obsurd, he had a grudge and a death wish. Would you or
anyone you know rather get probation or a short sentence,
or kill four officers, after you've been busted. There was
no logic behind these murders he was simply cazy,
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Comment #8 posted by runruff on March 05, 2005 at 16:23:03 PT:
Pardon my language but,
Bureaucrats in our gov't have turned into budget whores.To really know what fed law einforcement is all about you must some how be involved in it. Job security and retirement is all that matters. The bureaucratic montra is CYA. Cover your A--.Live with it or change it. 
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on March 05, 2005 at 13:41:03 PT
One More Comment
When Anne McLellan jumped on this like she did it shows us how she feels about reforming cannabis laws in Canada. That is wrong. If a person is in a position like she is understanding how people feel is very important if the person wants to be a good leader.
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on March 05, 2005 at 13:35:35 PT
They, Prohibitionists, already are a "sorry" lot. "Deeply regretful" would have been a better choice of words.
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on March 05, 2005 at 13:32:23 PT

All the Prohibitionists
who started running their mouths as fast and loud as they could when they thought they could stand on the bodies of these four dead officers and get more attention for their agendas are going to be very sorry.

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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 05, 2005 at 13:02:22 PT

 I'm also amazed at the stats. I know how read CNews has become and it is very humbling. I just thought of this tragedy and how I feel about it. We have seen Canada and the U.S. try to spin this into way more then it really was. The man was mentally ill and they were going to re-possess his truck and that combination could cause a person to snap that isn't well to begin with.I'd be a good Fire Lady.I just love putting out the fires of spin. LOL!
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on March 05, 2005 at 12:47:37 PT:

FoM, I'm astonished
From the statsheet: 150K+ in one day. I'm stunned. And you can bet a lot of those, if not the majority, were from the workstations of LEO's across North America.So, for their benefit, I once again say: Those young men died, not for high-minded concepts such as honor, not for duty, not to protect children. No. They died because a bunch of ball-less, self-appointed moral proctors in Washington persuaded their equally gonadally-challenged buddies in Ottawa to ramp up a pointless war against consumers of plants. Although the odds have favored you for so long, as Dan Gardner so ably pointed out, due to 98% of cannabists being peaceable folk who didn't shoot back, it was inevitable that sooner or later, a notjub like Roszko would - and did. Now four Mounties will never see their loved ones again, and said loved ones are standing beside graves with tears in their eyes...partly (PARTLY, I said) over a PLANT. A freaklin' PLANT. Whose ingestion by itself has never killed anybody. A fact which many of those LEO's reading this are well aware of from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.Four young men...dead partly because of a LIE. They died so those who have made such political capital out of that lie wouldn't have to face the music. Instead, they talk of further risking your lives by increasing the penalties, which in turn increases the risk to both the growers and yourself. Which increases the likelihood of the more violent dealers being imprisoned in a hell-hole they'd rather die than be incarcerated in...and since they're going to die, might decide to have some company in Hell.Prohibition has never worked, gents. Not in Grampa's day, and not in ours. And like far too many LEO's, four Mounties have found this out the hard way. I pray they'll be the last...but they won't be. Your faux moralistic masters will see to that...
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 05, 2005 at 09:32:30 PT

Thank you. I finally got it posted. It's hard sorting thru news today. One thing I do know is people must be reading CNews because we were over 150,000 hits yesterday.
CNews Stats
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Comment #1 posted by afterburner on March 05, 2005 at 09:05:45 PT

More 'Truth Will Out' from The Star
POST-WORTHY ARTICLE FROM THE STAR:****Stricter drug laws called more risky
Mar. 5, 2005. 09:15 AMThe slaying of four young RCMP officers in rural Alberta has brought renewed calls for tougher laws and sentences. Othes argue marijuana laws should be relaxed. Betsy Powell and Joseph Hall examine the issue. 
Legal pot? |  [Full Story]Excerpts: {Lawyer Eugene Oscapella, former chairman of the Law Reform Commission of Canada's drug policy group, calls Ottawa's "get tough stance" in the wake of the Alberta tragedy "absurd."{"The whole reason grow ops exist is because of prohibition," Oscapella said yesterday. {"This is very simple economics and it's really appalling that the governments, not just this but the past governments, profess to have such a sophisticated understanding of economics but can't seem to grasp the fact that they've created this incredibly powerful, lucrative and violent black market in Canada." {Tougher drug laws "actually are going to make it far more dangerous for the beat cop," he said, because it is going to drive the trade "more and more out of the hands of non-violent, ma-and-pa producers and into the hands of organized crime," he said from Ottawa. ...{Barnum, however, says that relaxing marijuana laws will not help get rid of the grow op plague, as much of the marijuana grown in them is destined for lucrative, but illicit markets in the U.S. Jack Cole, a former undercover narcotics agent from New Jersey, who now heads the pro-legalization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), agrees the Alberta tragedy is likely a direct result of laws that make marijuana's growth and use illegal.{"And creating rigid laws with stiffer penalties because of this situation is a knee-jerk thing that policy makers (will likely) do because they don't seem to know anything else," says Cole, "But when they do that it will only make things worse... the harsher the penalties, the more likely it is that (more) officers will be killed."{Cole, who worked 14 years undercover with the New Jersey State Police, says his country's 35-year-old war on drugs and its 1920s alcohol prohibition experience show restrictive policies make the use of banned substances more pervasive and their distribution more lethal.{"What does prohibition of anything get us? {"Prohibiting drugs does not cause less people to use them; we know that," he says. ...{Prominent Toronto criminal lawyer Paul Copeland says current laws against marijuana growers are "incredibly stupid" and that even more violence would likely occur if they were actually toughened.}--------------------------------------------------------------------------------OTHER BACKGROUND FROM THE THE STAR:{{The final act of a hostile loner
Mar. 5, 2005. 08:32 AMROCHFORT BRIDGE, Alta. — Word that there was trouble at Jim Roszko's property did not come as a shock to anyone at Mayerthorpe's RCMP detachment or to the local townspeople who had been talking about the 46-year-old since he was a teenager.  [Full Story]--------------------------------------------------------------------------------NORAD expansion possible
Mar. 5, 2005. 09:14 AMWASHINGTON — It was a week of telephone snubs, postponed trips, tough talk on trade and corridor whispers of poisoned personal relations. But well below the headlines, officials in Ottawa and Washington continued talks that could actually extend Canada-U.S. collaboration on continental defence. Tim Harper reports.  [Full Story]--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Four dead men were friends, neighbours
Mar. 5, 2005. 09:27 AMThey were, for the most part, small-town boys, as used to the gentle rhythms of rural life as they were to the hard and sudden judgment calls that police officers are called on to make every day. Nicolaas van Rijn and Dale Anne Freed help you to know the four men who met such a violent end this week.  [Full Story]--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Force's legacy endures
Mar. 5, 2005. 09:53 AMIn 1973, when the RCMP marked its centenary, many Albertans opted out of the national celebration. "The Mounties didn't arrive in Alberta until 1874," says historian Michael Dawson. "So the province preferred to have its own party a year later." Feature writer Bill Taylor picks up the story.  [Full Story]--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Roszko's history with the law
Mar. 5, 2005. 09:30 AMJames Roszko was 46 when he killed four RCMP officers. He was well known to local police. It all started in 1993 when he was charged with 12 offences after an altercation with a local school trustee.  [Full Story]}}
The Toronto Star - you know what to do
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