Your 'Liberal Media'...
The following is a letter I wrote to the Ottawa Citizen, which I do not expect to be published. I submit it here, for what it is worth:
I'd like to thank Margret Kopala*, CanWest columnist, for demonstrating, once again, the angry, moralizing, mean-spirited ignorance that passes for "conservatism" in this country today. Her latest diatribe against Insite was long on narrow minded ideology and emotional appeals to tragedy but short on actual facts and logical arguments.
Firstly Insite works at what it is supposed to do - reduce the harm to junkies but giving them a clean and safe place to inject. This prevents them from contracting major medical conditions like Hepatitis, HIV and other infections which they can then spread and burden our already over extended medical system with. Insite also gives them a place to have safe encounters with medical practitioners and addictions counselors, resources that are sorely lacking in the back alleys and flop houses of Vancouver's East end.
Kapala seems to be under the mistaken belief that Insite encourages drug use and abuse. What nonsense. IV drug users that use Insite are going to be shooting up anyway, either at Insite or the aforementioned alleys and flophouses. Kapala seems to think that they should not have safety or contact with addictions counselors, but must be punished and made to live miserably in order for them to be "encouraged" give up their ways. Funny, if that were true, considering the horrible conditions of life a junky currently lives and that Kapala herself described, it would have worked by now, wouldn't it?
She then goes on to praise the Conservative government's latest "War on Drugs" legislation and quotes some specious stats about marijuana usage among Canadian youth (the same demographic that scored 3,4,and 5 in the world, respectively, in Math Science and reading according to the latest OECD report). Again, "conservatism" has forgotten basic economics.
Demand drives supply, but supply rarely drives demand. When a supply of something is restricted but demand remains the same, the price goes up. Restricting supply never reduces demand. Conservatives seem to know this when talking about alcohol, cigarettes or any other commodity, but completely forget this when talking about "drugs" .
Based on these economic truisms, it is the act of prohibiting drugs that has created the very crime and socials issues Kapala and other conservatives say they want to battle. With a restricted supply and a high price, the profit incentive attracts those willing to supply and illegal commodity - street gangs, Hell's Angels, Montreal Mafia - while the smaller, more honest producers are driven from the market. Add to this the inability for business conflicts to be resolved in socially acceptable fashions such as using the police or the courts or even simple insurance, then violence and other less socially acceptable means are used.
The high price of illegal drugs that attracts the unscrupulous criminal element also means that users and addicts need more and more of their money to support their habit. they must turn to crime such as fraud, robbery, or degrading street prostitution and even drug dealing to support their habits.
That is the result of currently having drugs illegal. Getting tougher will only make it worse, not better and further drive the profits of the organized crime that runs the trade. Kopala and her ilk are the Hell's Angels best friends.
Imagine if a person with a drug habit could easily support that habit by working even a minimum wage job, because the price was so low? Imagine that the LA Crypts or the Hell's Angels aren't involved because there's no profit, because the price is so low? The addicts can merely seeks help, as an alcoholic would do today. Imagine all the money now spent to fight the "drug war" was spent to just treat addicts and do drug education to reduce demand?
If Kopala and the Harper government get their way, we will have more disease and addicts, more crime to support dug habits and more profits to the organized crime. Is that what we want? I know i don't.
I want drug abuse treated as a medical problem not a criminal one, so the police can concentrate on catching real criminals - like guys who run pig farms and murder people - rather than wasting time on hapless victims of addiction.
*Unfortunately, Kopala's screed from Saturday's Citizen is not online. Readers of the Ottawa dead tree edition will know of the half-page screed in the Editorial section I am referring to. I can only hope Dan Gardiner takes her to the woodshed next week.