Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tories Getting Tough on Drugs?

Not really

If one were to believe the voices of the hapless left, they would believe that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is fighting some sort of ill-advised war on drugs.

And he is. But not in the way they think.

The most recent bill proposed by the Conservative party will make use of mandatory minimum sentences for those involved in dealing and producing drugs.

Of course, various groups have decried this as a carbon-copy of the badly failing American anti-drug laws. It isn't, and they know it (but more on this later).

First off, the clear majority of the new Tory plan falls in line with what these people claim to want. in which 2/3 of new funding (approximately $42 million) would be addressed toward prevention and treatment.

Among other things, the program would fund an anti-drug campaign, modernize treatment services, develop new treatment methods, expand the treatment programs available to young addicts, provide provinces with new funding for expanding existing services, and more funding for a youth intervention program.

Of course, none of this is what opponents of the proposed bill want to focus on. Instead, they want to focus on (and distort) the enforcement portion of the proposed bill.

Today, the Conservatives rolled out this portion of the bill.

Those caught and convicted of selling marijuana as part of a criminal operation, or using a weapon, will recieve a mandatory minimum sentence of one year. Two years for selling drugs in the vicinity of a school. Two years for anyone operating an illegal marijuana grow-op of 300 plants or more. Two years for selling hard drugs.

Despite what those who oppose this bill what have you believe, the proposed mandatory minimum sentences actually aren't strong enough. Only in one case, the doubling of the maximum penalty for marijuana production from 7 to 14 years, did the proposed sentencing changes actually go too far.

If these groups want to argue that anyone caught selling drugs to school children shouldn't go to jail, a good number of Canadians would like to hear them try.

Opponents of these changes would like people to believe that this is merely a transplanting of American drug laws into Canada. But it isn't, and they know it.

The problem with mandatory minimum sentencing in the United States is that it's all too often directed merely at users. American prisons are overfilled with users sentenced to life for mere possession under the US' three-strikes laws.

That won't be the case under the Tory proposal, which focuses on treatment for users and punishment for dealers, whereas the American system focuses on punishment for both.

The Tory version, less the weak sentencing prescriptions, is how it should be.

While the party's opponents in this matter can at least safely argue that Canadian law is woefully restrictive toward medical marijuana, they'll only conitnue to fail to make that point if they insist on continuing to lie to Canadians about drug policy.

In the meantime, if the Conservatives want to get tough on drugs, they'd better go ahead and do it.

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