Archive for the 'Law' Category

The United Nations on Drugs: Alice in Wonderland Revisited

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The most recent edition of The Guardian Weekly, a typically “progressive” news outlet, devoted a full page to the wildly speculative musings of Antonio Maria Costa, the outgoing director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Mr. Costa made three key claims, none of which have any compelling empirical support. First, he argued that making illegal drugs more freely available will lead to more “public health damage”.

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On the Farm: Book Review

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

On The Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing Women, Stevie Cameron, Knopf Canada, 726 pages, ISBN 978-0-676-97584-0, $35.00

The wretched saga of Willie Pickton has taken centre stage in the province of British Columbia for more than a decade, capturing our attention in staccato bursts – the escalating disappearance of women from Vancouver’s downtown eastside, the search for a serial killer, the arrest of Willie Pickton, the exhaustive forensic investigation of his Port Coquitlam pig farm, his preliminary hearing and trial, and the ensuing revelations of the grotesque character of his crimes.

Stevie Cameron’s “On the Farm” captures much of this history and more, taking us from Willie Pickton’s childhood to his trolling for victims, typically drug addicted prostitutes, on the downtown eastside of Vancouver. She describes the personal histories of many of the missing women – their upbringings in often troubled homes, their difficulties in adjusting to schools and community, their drift into substance abuse and prostitution, and the circumstances of their disappearance, typically lured to the pig farm with the promise of good money and free drugs.

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Cheech and Chong/Stephen Harper

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Not surprisingly, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are not very impressed with Stephen Harper’s plans to intensify the war against cannabis and its derivatives. They noted earlier this week that the Prime Minister appears to have his head up George Bush’s butt (they are speaking metaphorically, I assume); their advice is characteristically blunt, “Wise up, you douchebag”.

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Canada Day Resolution: Stop Building More Prisons

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

In these days of public sector restraint there is one realm of waste that is often neglected – the planned and pointless expenditure of billions of tax dollars on new provincial and federal prisons, the consequence of a series of Conservative crime bills.

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Responding to Crime: Fear Drives Politics

Monday, May 31st, 2010

In 1910 Winston Churchill stated that one of the “unfailing tests” of a civilization lies in how it treats crime and criminals. In 1967 Pierre Trudeau told Canadians that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

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Forty Years of Marijuana Research: Reflections on 4/20 and the Prospects for Change

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

My first foray into marijuana research began 40 years ago, in the spring of 1970. It was what sociologists call participant observation research; I smoked some hashish with my friends in my final year of high school, and observed its effects on my behaviour. I noticed that the experience enhanced my appreciation of music, increased my appetite, and made me laugh at things that I might not ordinarily think were very funny. In sum, not a bad way to spend an evening in a small town in Ontario. Not as wild and crazy as an alcohol-fueled evening, but not entirely disappointing either.

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Banning Handguns: Towards a Safer Society

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Handguns are potentially dangerous commodities, though gun advocates will also insist that they are more protective than dangerous – tools for the protection of home, family and personal property.

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Advice for the PM: How to Respond to Those Pesky Marijuana Questions

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has thrown down a challenge to millions of computer savvy Canadians, inviting their questions through the medium of YouTube. And Canadians have complied, throwing a horde of complaints, quizzes and diatribes at the Prime Minister, on topics ranging from climate change to prorogation. Perhaps surprisingly, the most common questions focus on his government’s approach to the control of marijuana. We will hear from the Prime Minister on Tuesday, but I thought it might be helpful to provide him with a little advice before he puts his fingers to the keyboard. Here are two of the more popular questions, and my suggested responses.

“Mr. Harper. Why aren’t we keeping marijuana away from children by controlling it as we control alcohol and tobacco? Why are we encouraging gangs & crime by making marijuana so profitable? Why are you ignoring how ineffectual the current policy is?

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Insite: Stephen Harper’s Crusade Against Science

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Unfortunately, the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision on Insite may not bring an end to the Harper Conservatives’ determination to shut it down – a facility that our province and our city have quite fairly described as a health care initiative.

Friday’s judgement was interesting and complex, with debate focused on such related issues as interjurisdictional  immunity, provincial paramountcy, and co-operative federalism.  But what was really interesting were the more general policy statements, unencumbered by Canada’s legal structure, and aimed at the heart of the policy issues that we have all been debating. The dissenting judgement, one which would have allowed the appeal of the federal government, concluded, “The current harm reduction model employed at Insite cannot stand isolated from the sourcing, distribution and sale in Canada of the illicit drugs used in its facility, by willfully ignoring the context in which those drugs arrive in the possession of its clientele. This conflicts with Canada’s constitutional mandate for criminal law, which includes the control of dangerous and addictive drugs for the health and public safety of its citizens”.

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A Less Violent 2010? No Quick Fix

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

As we turn the corner on another decade, hopes for a more peaceful society seem to be somewhat elusive —  locally, nationally and globally.

Here in Vancouver our city Council has approved the licensing of Mixed Martial Arts, a sport that takes boxing to another level, while still retaining its key goal – one man displaying the speed, ferocity and strength to knock another unconscious. On the national stage, the rate of handgun homicides in our major urban centres has been climbing for a decade, as young men with guns kill their adversaries for a wide range of reasons, ranging from theft and failure to repay debt, to imagined or real insult.  On the international stage, matters are even worse. We have literally tens of thousands of individuals, again almost always men, committed to killing as part of some ill-conceived political and/or religious agenda (or mental illness).

What’s the solution? Well, first, let’s separate the mixed martial arts combatants from the young gangsters and the terrorists; at least these folks are playing by some rules. And I must confess, as much as I dislike the blood and the violence, I’m not sure that prohibition of the sport is ultimately a helpful strategy. Increased regulation brings increased safety for those who choose to participate: restrictions on eye gouging and groin kicks, for example, and the comfort of knowing that a properly certified neurologist is sitting ringside.

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