Editorial: A Basic Question of Fairness 3/3/06

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items

more...

recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed

SUBSCRIBE TODAY!!!


http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/425/basicfairness.shtml

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

 

David Borden

Here in the United States -- the heart of the global drug war -- it's easy to look overseas and see greener pastures and take heart from where other countries and other parts of the world are going. Tolerance in the Netherlands; heroin maintenance in Switzerland; needle exchange in China and Iran; British Columbia in Canada turning a blind eye to most marijuana activity, with safe injection sites advancing in Vancouver and heroin maintenance getting a try there, and Canadian political leaders like Senator Claude Nolin and Member of Parliament Libby Davies publicly calling for legalization of drugs -- things are going better in other parts of the world, they have it relatively good overseas and across some borders, so it seems.

Overall that is probably still the case. But for reformers in those places it is all still relative. In Canada, for example, the government's stated intention to decriminalize marijuana never materialized, and the bills that were most likely to pass were a mixed blessing at best. Medical marijuana refugee Steve Kubby was sent back to California despite apparent danger to his life without medical marijuana in the prisons of a state that is supposed to allow medical marijuana. Now, with a conservative government taking the reins (for reasons unrelated to drug policy), reform has probably gotten as far as its going to get for a little while, though time will tell. Hopes that the government would refuse on human rights grounds to extradite marijuana seed entrepreneur/activist Marc Emery to the US seem a longer shot now. And criticisms of politicization in the Emery maneuver -- larger seed sellers who were not supporting the legalization movement had not been targeted -- may be blunted somewhat with the takedown late last month of the outfit Heaven's Stairway, though on Canada's own initiative, not the DEA's.

One could argue that Canadian seed vendors knowingly risked legal consequences, that laws even if bad ones were on the books and they knew about them, that people like Emery as well as the less ideological proprietors of Heaven's Stairway had to know there was a chance that sooner or later the government would move against them. But there's a basic question of fairness that is thereby missed. For years, almost a decade in fact, Emery and others have operated their businesses with no attempt at secrecy -- in Emery's case literally from open storefronts on Hastings Street in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Authorities' long-term inaction on that knowledge constituted a kind of consent to it, an implicit message that Canada really didn't have an interest in going after marijuana and that the hammer really wasn't going to come down on these people very hard if it did.

When Canada's political leaders and law enforcement agencies decided to take a different course, a more honorable way for them to do it would have been to tell Emery and others that things had changed, that it was time to stop, that past activities that everybody knew about wouldn't be used against them so long as they did stop. Instead, people are facing hard time in US and Canadian prisons. Law or not, that's an unfair manner of applying the law, because a law and its implementation (or lack thereof) are ultimately inseparable. Canadian authorities should grant an amnesty for the past seed selling that they green-lighted for so long, if the law is to operate with fairness. If not, then those same authorities who gave the green light should themselves be punished, and just as harshly, if the law is to operate with equality.

Canada's law recognizes that principles of human rights are not always black and white and that the letter of the law can sometimes conflict with them. Reformers have rightfully invoked that principle on this occasion. I believe that over time the drug war will be recognized as the massive violation of human rights that it is. Even with its politics changed, I hope that Canada will stand on that idea sooner rather than later.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #425 -- 3/3/06

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items

more...

recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed

SUBSCRIBE TODAY!!!

Editorial: A Basic Question of Fairness | Feature: Canada Cannabis Seed Crackdown? | Feature: In Annual Ritual, Bush Administration Seeks More Aid for Colombia Drug War | Celebrity Mouth: Fox Bloviator Attacks TV News Legend Walter Cronkite over Drug War | Feature: The Push is On Again in Nevada | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Marijuana: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back as Lawrence, Kansas, Adjusts Its Marijuana Laws | Marijuana: University of Texas, Florida State Students Pass SAFER-Style Resolutions | High Schools: South Dakota Legislature Overrides Veto to Lessen Student Drug Penalties | Drug-Free Zones: California Homeless Legislation Would Bar Certain Drug Offenders from LA's Skid Row | Europe: Scottish Tories Tip-Toe Toward Libertarian Line on Drug Policy | South Asia: In Katmandu, Hindu Holy Men Smoke Marijuana in Annual Shiva Festival | Weekly: This Week in History | Job Opportunity: Religious Outreach Coordinator, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]