Earlier this week, a prominent Canadian leader, Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, came to Washington to discuss his committee's recent recommendation that marijuana be legalized, not merely decriminalized or depenalized as his nation is preparing to do. The visit came against a backdrop of a war of words by US anti-drug officials who are unhappy about this and other reforms of drug policy that Canada's government has in the works.
The words have not been credible. In a comment that doesn't pass the straight face test, drug czar John Walters predicted a series of toxic waste dumps would crop up around Canada, if some Canadians cease putting other Canadians in prison for possessing small quantities of marijuana. Walters flack David Murray visited Vancouver this week to repeat the warnings, the Vancouver Sun reported, but his reasoning was no more impressive. "I didn't learn anything," said Vancouver city council member Jim Green. "I just really was unimpressed with the lack of depth and the lack of analysis." Mayor Larry Campbell, referring to another Canadian drug policy development in the offing that Murray doesn't like, safe injection sites, predicted that "in the coming years, the US will probably want to emulate us."
Recent events in Nevada further undermine the federal drug office's credibility. Drug Czar John Walters has been charged with the crime of violating Nevada's election laws by failing to file a campaign finance report. Walters campaigned against the Question 9 initiative using taxpayer funds, that a violation of federal law. Nevada's attorney general issued an opinion -- arguably incorrect -- that Walters was immune from state prosecution due to a clause of federal law -- but harshly criticized Walters for interfering with Nevada's electoral process. In other words, he believes Walters did break the law, but that there's nothing Nevada can do about it. Not exactly a shining example for the children.
Senator Nolin and his fellow committee members are a much classier act. With nothing politically to gain, and knowing the risk of angering America's rude anti-drug mouthpieces, they chose nevertheless to push the envelope and speak the truth as they saw it. Watching Nolin and others speak in Washington last Tuesday, one might have wondered if it were a different universe from that inhabited by John Walters. It is the same universe, of course; just some of the inhabitants are honest and others aren't.
Fortunately, the honest people don't all inhabit other countries; some of them live here in the US too. Eventually the growing chorus of anti-prohibitionist voices around the world will become too strong for US media and leaders to ignore. When that time comes, the US will probably want to emulate much more than safe injection sites and marijuana decriminalization.