So close yet so far apart. The United States and Canada have so much in common—except that our current governments are from different planets, especially when it comes to drug policy.
Examples: Lucie Charlebois, Québec’s Minister of Public Health, recently announced the opening in Montreal of two centers where people will be able to inject illicit drugs under a nurse’s supervision.
On that very same day, our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions directed prosecutors to seek the harshest possible charges in federal drug cases. Why? Because “drugs and crime go hand in hand,” said Sessions.
He’s wrong, of course, according to every academic study ever done on the topic.
But Sessions, like every member of the Trump administration, refuses to use facts to bolster their outrageous comment and actions.
In fact, violent crime is at the lowest levels it has been for the past half-century.
Our shameful mass incarceration rates, the highest per capita in the world, have done nothing to lower crime rates, according to the National Academies Press.
However, the lifesaving benefits of supervised injection sites have been confirmed, according to a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet.
But Jeff Sessions is intent on restarting the War on Drugs.
He is currently going after the highly successful legal weed industry, while drug dealers are getting fat and rich by adulterating the country’s enormous heroin supply with fentanyl, which has resulted in a huge uptick in overdose deaths.
Canada, meanwhile, is trying something different. Harm reduction.
This is a public health approach based on the idea that drug policies should maximize health and minimize damage.
These are important issues for the U.S. and Canada, which naturally have overlapping drug markets and are both contending with drug-related public health crises.
Not to mention we share a 5,525-mile border, the longest undefended international boundary in the world.
Yet, the two countries have wildly divergent responses to these issues.
Let’s look at Justin Trudeau’s government, which is basically decriminalizing drugs and encouraging supervised injection sites nationwide, expanding access to prescription heroin and legalizing recreational weed.
The announcement of the injection sites coincided with the annual Harm Reduction International Conference held in Montreal in mid-May.
Monique Tula, executive director of the U.S.-based Harm Reduction Coalition, told attendees at the conference that the Trump administration’s approach represented “a wholesale rejection of science.”
“It’s completely regressive,” Tula said. “Utterly draconian policies, [there was] utter hysteria around the crack epidemic and the result then was to lock everyone up. The idea is if we put a dent in the supply then demand will go down accordingly. It’s not what happens.”
Meanwhile in Canada, they’re planning for Happy Cannabis Day July 2018 as the government just introduced a suite of bills in the House of Commons.
The legislation is called An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, which will legalize recreational marijuana consumption and sales in Canada. The government hopes to implement the legislation by July 2018.
So there you have Canada’s philosophy for how to win the War on Drugs: Don’t start one.
And here, on our side of the border, we have the drug warriors rattling their swords, chomping at the bit to fill up the jails by cracking down on an industry that has done nothing but render positive social and economic achievements.
Like climate deniers, the anti-pot fanatics continue to reject science because it doesn’t fit their worldview.
As astrophysicist and director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson, says: “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”