David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 12/13/02
Though a critic of US drug policies, the US is still my home, its government is mine, its leaders were elected by my fellow US citizens. So I can't help but get a little embarrassed -- though mostly entertained -- when United States drug warriors say ridiculous things in other countries that make them look stupid.
One such drug warrior was Rep. Mark Souder. Souder told members of a Canadian Senate Committee last July that "BC Bud," British Columbia's famous high-grade marijuana, is as dangerous as cocaine, threatening Canada with a tighter border crackdown if they proceeded with decriminalization as officials have called for. Souder's wacky claim drew proper astonishment from Member of Parliament from Vancouver Libby Davies, who wondered out loud to Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, "My God, what is this man talking about?" The Senators weren't impressed either -- their final report went further than decriminalization and instead called for marijuana legalization outright.
Two of Souder's partners in comedy, US drug czar John Walters and former Family Research Council VP and Bush drug policy advisor Robert Maginnis, were loud in Canada's news this week, and they sounded desperate. Walters warned that liberalizing drug laws would hurt Canadians, begging them, "[d]on't repeat our pain." Maginnis warned, "We're going to have to clamp down even stronger on our border if you liberalize and contribute to what we consider a drug tourism problem," continuing, "I don't want to get to the point where we're calling for a boycott of Canadian products."
I wonder which products Maginnis was talking about, and if he actually thinks it would work. This country hasn't even boycotted Saudi oil. And decades of exhortation by government officials, private anti-drug groups, teachers, DARE cops, military, media and numerous others haven't persuaded American enthusiasts from indulging in cannabis both domestic and foreign. It's pretty unlikely that very many people would get worked up enough to keep track of and avoid the numerous nondescript consumer goods that cross our northern border legally -- even in the unlikely event that marijuana policy changes in Canada drew the ire of significant numbers of Americans.
Walters and Maginnis should be worried. Support for decrim rises to the highest levels of government. It has popular support. Indeed, many Canadians, like the Senate Committee, don't feel it goes far enough. The aforementioned Libby Davies told the Winnipeg Free Press this week that the House of Commons Special Committee's recommendations "leav[e] in place all the harms from prohibition." Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy said "it is not clear if the police will still be able to kick your door down, throw you up against the wall, arrest you, and then write you a traffic ticket." Canada's media isn't only covering the American side, but is speaking with experts from that famous bastion of tolerant drug policy, The Netherlands. And Canada is looking at a range of reforms relating to other drugs, including safe injection rooms and heroin maintenance trial programs. How long will it be before there is a serious dialogue on legalization of all drugs?
Though the decrim recommendations aren't everything reformers would like, they are a significant start, and a sign that US drug warriors' stranglehold on international drug policymaking is slowly but surely falling apart. It's understandable that they would be in a panic over it. But I wish they would save the rest of us the embarrassment and show a little more grace and class in their diplomacy.
In the meantime, go Canada!