This letter is in reply to Andrew Carswell who wrote a column that appeared in the Daily Herald last month.
It is good that students are gaining experience being active in the community.
You quoted a very large number for the drug war. I am unsure of the source of this figure you quote and what it includes. A figure this large likely includes other initiatives like public health and customs.
There is a cost to limit the spread of diseases like SARS, H1N1 and Ebola that affect people. Veterinary diseases like "Hoof and Mouth disease" in cattle and diseases like Trichinosis can create a major loss. Citrus fruit and fruit flies are items of major interest because of the economic losses that can occur.
What I think what we should do about drug decriminalization depends on the evidence?
1. In the last two years, have been asked at every job I applied for about substance abuse. This includes alcohol and "recreational drugs" of which you speak. This is a growing problem in the Canadian work force. It accounts for absenteeism, decreased performance, errors, injuries of abusers and others, excessive tardiness, poor grades, suspension, etc. Personally, it accounts for mood swings, withdrawal, depression, poor hygiene. There is damage to both short-term and long-term memory. This can lead to problems with learning and memory later in life.
Business owners lose an estimated $100 billion per year because of substance abuse ($3171 every second). This is about $2000 more per second being spent than on the drug war!
Employees who use drugs are only two-thirds as productive as nonusers, and their use contributes to increased thefts, damaged equipment and other unnecessary costs in the workplace.
It is a large enough problem that the Canadian Centre on Occupational Health and Safety has written on this topic as have several provinces and states:
2. These substances have been limited because they are recognized to produce problems. Look at how and why Heroin was withdrawn from the market as a painkiller by Bayer drugs before 1910.
The war is on drugs and preventing them from entering the country and coming to people like you.
3. The new president in Mexico has begun to lighten the drug laws there. Since he took over, there have been more deaths in the country than before. Decrminalization does not bring decreased rates of everything in all cases.
You say "People are thrown in jail for smoking something that may be less problematic than legally drinking alcohol." What if they are not? Abused substances produce some form of intoxication that alters judgment, perception, attention, or physical control. You talk about cannabis later on, so we will address that one.
People who drive intoxicated with alcohol know in some way that they are impaired. Those who have been smoking cannabis derivatives have their sensation of time and space affected and they do not realize it. This makes them more dangerous!
Less problematic? Eisenstein wrote a landmark work on marijuana in the 1970s. The level of the active ingredient (THC) has increased many times over since then. He identifed that the risk of lung cancer with cannabis is many times higher than tobacco in addition to the neurological effects and the others we know about.
You said " Also people with stressful jobs can relax easier and cheaper with say a gram of hash cannabis then with a 40 ounces of whiskey."
I can tell you that there are more cost effective, healthy and constructive methods of relaxation than either of these! To answer this point completely would take too many words. If you experience stress to this degree, talk to a doctor or a counsellor to discern the alternatives to the two choices you present.
"Why can't we start the conversation?"
You already have. Perhaps the information I bring may not be told in schools. These substances are illegal because there are substantive reasons for it.