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Articles - International & national drug policy
Written by Patricia Erickson   
Friday, 25 September 1992 00:00

First published in Daedalus summer 1992

Recent Trends in Canadian Drug Policy:
The Decline and Resurgence of Prohibitionism

by Patricia Erickson

Patricia G. Erickson is a Senior Scientist with the Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto, Ontario, and has a status appointment at the University of Toronto in the Department of Sociology.

DURING THE ERA OF ALCOHOL PROHIBITION in the United States, industrious Canadians were producers and exporters of this then forbidden drug across the world's longest undefended border.1 By contrast, in the current illicit drug trade, Canada though sometimes a transshipment point for drugs destined for the United States,2 is largely a partner in prohibition of illicit substances. Indeed, Canada, given its early legislative efforts in 1908 to control such substances, and its high profile when the first international treaties were signed, may be said to have led the way in forging modern drug prohibition, influencing the United States in its approach.3 Since then, Canada and the United States have shared an overlapping history in regard to "narcotics."4

While this process of reciprocal influence over eight decades has resulted in many similarities, the outcomes have been different. Because levels of illicit drug use and associated problems are much lower in Canada than they are in the United States, Canada provides an interesting case control study for examining the American experience.

Like most industrialized societies, their drug policies have relied heavily on the criminal law to control drug supplies and to punish offenders. The term "prohibitionism" includes the array of laws, criminal justice practices and social evaluations that serve to suppress particular forms of drugs, forbidding their use, production, and sale. Most nations have an official policy of prohibiting narcotics; most are signatories of the United Nations treaty, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Yet implementation varies widely, from the ferocious policies of Malaysia and Singapore to the benign ones practiced by the Netherlands. Vigorous enforcement of drug prohibition involves substantial socioeconomic costs and the curtailment of individual personal freedoms. No democratic government can persevere in this approach unless it has wide support in the populace.

In 1986-1987, while the United States launched a newly invigorated drug war, Canada enunciated a very different federal drug strategy. Since repressive responses to illicit drug use had been the hallmark of drug policies in both countries from the early 1900s, this apparent divergence could be seen as an effort by Canada to distance itself from the legacy of its past policies, to forge a new direction. Was Canada's Drug Strategy something more profound than Canadians just saying 'No Thank You' to drugs? The evidence suggests that Canada still has a distance to go if it wishes to distinguish itself from the more unequivocally aggressive American response.


A distinctive feature of Canadian society is the generally lower rate of crime and violence, compared to the United States of America.5 In 1988, the murder rate south of the Canada-US border was more than three times that to the north, and the American robbery rate was over twice that of Canada's.6 The total number of homicides in all of Canada in 1990 was 656,~ comparable to that of either Detroit or Washington, D.C. Canada has much stricter gun control laws than the United States, and Canadian police officers were less likely to be killed on duty in the 1980s than in the two preceding decades.8 American officers involved in drug related investigations have been increasingly at high risk.9 Nor has Canada's history been marred to any marked degree by assassinations, civil unrest, and other forms of extreme political violence, leading William Kilbourn to refer to Canada as "the peaceable kingdom still."10

Anyone who doubts the uniqueness of Canada's culture, values, and identity need look no further than a recent issue of DaedaIus.11 Yet, both Canada and the United States resort to substantial punitive responses to criminal offenders. While the American incarceration rate is the highest in the world, and Canada's incarceration rate is one-fourth of that, it is still fifth in the world.'2 An increasing proportion of incarcerated Americans are drug offenders; they comprise close to half of all inmates in certain jurisdictions. In 1988, 6 percent of provincial and 11 percent of federal inmates in Canada were imprisoned for offenses against drug laws: approximately 7,000 in total. 13 If Canada no longer permits capital punishment, it provides the most severe sentence available, life imprisonment, for trafficking or importing cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and other "narcotics." Canada's rate of drug offenses (that is, those discovered and recorded by the police) peaked in the 1980-1985 period at nearly 300 per 100,000. The United Nations reported this to be the highest in the world during that period,14 but it has apparently been surpassed by the United States since then.15

Still the use of illicit drugs in the two countries has been very different. Whatever substance or demographic group is considered, Canadian rates are lower.16 For example, among cocaine users, the highest levels of use in the US population have been reported in the age category, 18 to 25. In 1982, a year of peak use, 18.8 percent of these young adults were reported to have used cocaine. In the province of Ontario, the proportion of the young adult group using cocaine in 1984 was recorded as 7.1 percent. While 6.7 percent of Ontario high school seniors used cocaine in 1985, in the comparable American group, 13.1 percent had done so. Differences are also conspicuous for cannabis. While the most recent student surveys show 27.5 percent of US seniors using the substance in the past year, 21.6 percent of Ontario high school seniors used it in the same period. Nationally, 23.2 percent of all Canadian adults used cannabis at some time in their lives; only 6.5 percent were current users in 1989. Adult levels of cannabis use in the United States have been consistently higher.

While injection drug use, particularly of opiates, is notoriously difficult to determine, the Canadian estimates of an upper limit of about 25,000 users17 are dwarfed by estimates of at least one million regular injection drug users in the United States.1~ As shown in Figure 1, the death rate in Toronto comprising cases in which heroin or cocaine is detected is from one-seventh to one-fourteenth lower than in the comparable American cities, New York and Philadelphia.


Cases of AIDS and rates of HIV infection attributable to injection drug use as the sole risk factor are also much lower in Canada, at less than S percent,19 though rates are substantially higher in imprisoned populations.20 The difference may result, at least in part, from the legal availability of needles and syringes in pharmacies in Canada and the introduction of needle exchange programs in major Canadian cities by the end of the 1980s.

These differences do not necessarily reflect a more general difference in attitudes to all drugs. For example, licit drug use is comparable in the two countries. Per capita alcohol consumption is about the same, with Canada slightly higher; the same is true for cigarette smokers. Also, Canadians appear to be less concerned about illicit drugs than are Americans. when public opinion in both countries was surveyed in 1990 on their most important national problems, Canadians placed drugs eighth on their list; Americans placed it second from the top.21 National attention in Canada has tended also to focus on issues of tobacco control, the overprescribing of pharmaceuticals, and alcohol problems. The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs established in 1969 to examine increasing drug use-the Le Daine Commission-may have contributed to this broader perspective when it articulated a definition of "non-medical drug use" that encompassed both licit and illicit substances.22 while the prevalence of illicit drug use is considerably lower in -Canada than in the United States and the magnitude of drug use differs substantially, the trends in illicit drug use in both countries have run a parallel course. Both countries experienced a marked rise in illicit drug use during the 1970s, followed by a levelling off, and a decline in the 1980s.23


There are two major ways of conceptualizing the differences in crime and illicit drug use as between Canada and the United States.24 The "cultural lag" model assumes that the differences are only a matter of degree; it is simply a matter of time before Canada refleas the same level of such problem activities as its larger neighbor. This version, particularly popular with media commentators for whom each example of violent crime, drug bust, or cocaine overdose provides further evidence that Canada is destined to achieve American levels of urban disorder and decay, is very different from the "distinct society" view which holds that the two countries are fundamentally different in their attitudes, values, culture, and social institutions. These, in turn, are thought to shape the propensities for crime and deviance, including illicit drug use. In this latter view, Canada has traditionally valued social order over individual rights and freedoms, producing a more law-abiding populace, placing greater faith in the discretion of legal authorities. These contrasts are summarized by David Bayley:

Compared with the U.S., Canada is very fortunate indeed ... Curiously, though, these striking differences in rates of criminality between Canada and the U.S. are not a source of congratulations among Canadians. Instead, they tend to wring their hands in the belief that Canada must inevitably follow the frightening example of the U.S. They do not pause to consider that there may be differences in socioeconomic structure as well as culture between the two countries that would make this unlikely.25

Indeed, the broader social net in Canada-more substantial public support for medical care, public schools, and social services26-may have helped reduce levels of poverty and deprivation, and may provide less fertile ground for drug use and crime. If Canadians have maintained lower levels of drug use, how is this connected to today's sociolegal responses to drugs and the more recent enunciations of a more vigorous drug policy?

In Canada, antinarcotic criminal laws were initiated in 1908, largely directed at opium smoking among Chinese laborers.27 Subsequent modifications to the laws provided ever harsher penalties and fewer legal protections for suspected users and sellers.28 This trajectory persisted until 1969. Then, for the first time, the vigor of the legal response diminished. More changes in the direction of greater leniency were expected in the 1 970s, in the wake of the Le Dam Commission. Reform of the drug laws appeared to be an imminent possibility.29 In the 1980s, however, the use of illicit drugs declined. Marijuana arrest activity and sentence severity diminished in Canada, as it did in the United States, where eleven states decriminalized possession, without refueling a new epidemic of marijuana use.30 Concomitantly, public interest and political attention to drug issues waned.31

By the mid-1980s, however, the process of a qualified retreat from cnrmnalization ended; a resurgence of antidrug sentiment and intensification of legal responses followed. what revived this prohibitionism? What factors contributed to this dramatic shift in social response?


This era of drug policy, extensively analyzed elsewhere,32 will be summarized briefly here. Canada may be unique in the extent to which centralized bureaucratic control characterized the formative period of Canadian narcotics law. The federal chief of the Division of Narcotic Control coordinated reports from the federal enforcers (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police [RCMP]) and federal drug prosecutors, guaranteeing that most of their expressed need for greater powers were met legislatively. Because criminal law in Canada is under federal jurisdiction, all legal enactments related to the entire country.

During the heyday of the 1920s, when the fundamental structure was first established, provisions provided for the search of premises and their occupants without warrants, the creation and issuance of blanket search warrants, called writs of assistance, for dwellings, various restrictions on legal appeals, the whipping of the convicted, the sentencing of offenders to hard labor, mandatory minimum sentences, and the deportation of convicted aliens, regardless of the length of their domicile in Canada. These harsh provisions, possible because of the depth of anti-Asiatic sentiment, were enacted almost solely against the Chinese. Cannabis was added to the schedule in 1923 without parliamentary debate. In 1954, the severity of the penalties for trafficking was increased yet further; the reverse onus of proof, requiring the accused to establish his innocence, was applied to a new offense, possession for the purpose of trafficking.

As P. James Giffen and his colleagues have illustrated in great detail, the principal architects of drug policy in this period were those charged with its execution.33 This bureaucratic partnership of social control agents remained virtually unchallenged until the 1950s when concern for providing treatment for opiate users broadened the range of players. This was yet further expanded by the marijuana controversy of the 1960s. The public appears to have accepted these broad powers of social control, and the police and courts used them effectively to process drug offenders in substantial numbers, resulting in high rates of criminalization and incarceration.

A reliance on strict enforcement and punishment has traditionally been Canada's primary strategy on illicit drugs. As the Le Daine Commission stated in 1972: "The law is the primary instrument of social policy... The question is whether, and to what extent, the cnminal law is a proper instrument for such a policy."34 The Commissioners addressed this question by conducting a cost-benefit analysis with the not unreasonable assumptions (though rarely applied historically in drug policy matters) that the benefits of the policy should be demonstrable, not to be exceeded by its costs.


A number of pressures arose in the 1960s, precipitating the questioning and modification of this dominant policy. There was an upsurge in youthful drug use, especially marijuana, and the overloading of the courts with these "cannabis criminals." Limited sentencing options led half of all cannabis possession offenders to be imprisoned, and the emergence of competing interest groups vying for the right to define "the drug problem" changed the picture.35

A different policy emphasis, manifested gradually in both real and contemplated law reform, the eventual reduction in enforcement activity, less severe sentences, and a new public awareness of individual rights of drug users was apparent. Actual legal changes were few compared to the many debated during this period. Major changes included the provision of a "fine only" sentencing option in 1969 as an amendment to the Narcotic Control Act and the provision of absolute and conditional discharge alternatives in 1972.36 Such discharges, providing a finding of guilt but not a conviction, were new to the Criminal Code. Other proposals for legal changes were made but never implemented. For example, a major reform that attracted substantial political attention in 1968, 1970, 1974, and 1980, but not approved, was a proposal to move cannabis from the Narcotic Control Act to the less restrictive Food and Drugs Act.37

Declines in sentence severity for cannabis possession during this period, and greater efficiency of the courts in processing these offenders, helped reduce pressure for meaningful law reform.38 Judges quickly utilized the fine and discharge options; fewer users were jailed. Convictions climbed dramatically in the I 970s for cannabis offenses (of which about 90 percent were for simple possession) to a peak of nearly 44,000 in 1981, but then declined to 22,510 in 1985. During this period, annual convictions for illicit drugs other than cannabis rarely numbered more than 1,000,~~ and Canada's drug policy was directed at, and dominated by, cannabis.

Another manifestation of some tempering of the earlier allegiance to prohibitionism was an increased recognition of individual rights in drug cases. The process began with critiques in the 1970s and culminated in the mid-i 980s with the abolition of writs of assistance, the removal of mandatory minimum sentences for importing, and the elimination of the reverse onus clause in cases of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Although passage of the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 was not prompted specifically by a concern with perceived injustices regarding drug offenders, its effect was to remove some of the procedural disadvantages that had been applied to suspected or accused drug users/sellers, but not to other categories of potential criminals.40

Even minor shifts in a well-entrenched social response to a particular form of deviance cannot occur without changes in the social evaluation of the unacceptable behavior.41 The initial criminalization of illicit drugs was made possible by the development of strongly held fact beliefs concerning the pernicious effects of certain drugs, their ability to enslave users, and the evil and immoral qualities of those who distributed thern.42 A number of social influences in the 1960s and 1970s led to the discrediting of the more extreme forms of the "dope fiend" mythology of the earlier era.

One relevant factor was the narrowing of the social distance between drug users and the mainstream of society. Indeed, many in the mainstream gained personal familiarity with illicit drugs, as the use of marijuana, LSD, and cocaine (at a later date) became more prevalent in the adolescent and young adult population. It is difficult to maintain the seriousness of criminal behavior when the activity is engaged in by a substantial proportion of the population, by those in one's own family and social network. As well, these new users of cannabis and other drugs who were going to court in increasing numbers occupied a higher social status than that associated with the heroin addict stereotype. The law was widely assailed for making criminals of middle class youth. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in a session with students in 1977, said: "If you have a joint and you're smoking it for your private pleasure, you shouldn't be hassled."43 Also, health risks, physical and psychological dependency, and the progression theory of drug escalation (first marijuana, then heroin), were assessed repeatedly in government reports in many countries, and were deemed less serious than previously believed.44

Another influence was the contribution made by cost-benefit research to a more objective analysis of the prevailing policy of criminalization. Many studies documented the weakness of the deterrent effect of the law in preventing the initiation or continuation of drug use.45 Also, increased evidence of the substantial costs of suppression efforts directed at trafficking, and the limited effectiveness of supply-side measures, had their effect.46 Together, such studies led many to conclude that existing policy could be improved on, even if agreement on the best alternatives remained elusive.47


As the 1980s advanced, most forms of illicit drug use declined; arrests for cannabis decreased, those for cocaine gradually increased; the courts continued routinely to process drug cases; the urgency of earlier drug policy debates was replaced by public and political indifference. Canada had, it seemed, learned to live both with drug use and prohibition.48 Some imagined that illicit drug use, like abortion, gambling, homosexuality, and other previously criminalized acts would follow the cycles of diminished social concern, less intervention, greater toleration.49

In 1986, crucial events occurred. First, the American President, Ronald Reagan, declared a new crusade against drugs, stating that "Drugs are menacing our society... there is no moral middle ground." Within two days, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney departed from his prepared text to announce that "Drug abuse has become an epidemic that undermines our economic as well as our social fabric."50 Bemused Canadian drug professionals and researchers, who knew that the problems had neither worsened nor gone away, were caught by surprise. Many, sought by the media for comment, challenged the Prime Minister's view of an "epidemic"; the more politically adept reiterated the requirement for resources to prevent and treat existing drug problems, including alcohol and prescription drugs. Even government officials were caught off guard, as was one high-ranking official in Health and Welfare Canada at that time, who described the events that followed: "when he [the PM] made that statement, then we had to make it a problem."51 Thus drug issues returned to the social and political agenda.

In the aftermath of the Prime Minister's remark, events moved rapidly. The Canadian government created a federal drug secretariat, which consulted widely with community groups and agencies, and provided a new national focus on a drug strategy "with objectives of reducing the harm to individuals, families and communities from the abuse of drugs.~~S2 Formally announced in May 1987, the Strategy projected funding of $210 million over the next five years. The funds were to be unevenly allocated; 70 percent was to go for prevention and treatment; 30 percent for enforcement and control. Pressure from addiction agencies guaranteed that drug abuse comprised not only illicit drugs, but alcohol, licit pharmaceuticals, solvents, and, to a limited extent, tobacco. The new Strategy explicitly recognized the inadequacy of supply efforts; it made its focus the reduction of demand through education of the young, together with provisions for treatment. This initiative at first distanced itself from the American "War on [Illicit] Drugs" and its priority of enforcement over both prevention and treatment.53

Canada's Drug Strategy, as it is officially known, has now completed its first five year mandate; in 1992 it was renewed for a further five years.54 It is timely, therefore, to assess its impact, to consider its likely future direction. Because the Strategy did not simply replace all existing policies and programs, and because public beliefs and attitudes towards drugs, and the social evaluations they entail, are a volatile and conflicting mix, the results have been contradictory.

In this period, manifestations of a renewed spirit of prohibitionism included the creation of new offenses and laws. In 1989, Bill C-61 gave the police new powers to seize and the courts to forfeit the assets of arrested drug offenders. Compared to the previous five years, when the antidrug profiteering program garnered only $51 million, $60 million was realized between 1989 and 1992.~~ Another law, Bill C-264, banning the sale of drug paraphernalia, was enacted in 1988.56 Some prosecutions of "head shop" merchants followed; drug literature, such as the magazine High Times, was stopped at the border.

The failure of a Canadian athlete to pass drug tests in the 1988 Olympics, and the resultant inquiry, increased public awareness and concern about the ready availability of performance-enhancing drugs.57 In 1992 steroids were moved up a step in the legislative hierarchy, from Section F of the Food and Drugs Act (covering most prescription drugs) to join barbiturates and amphetamines in Section G which provides more severe penalties for trafficking. Thus, the net of criminalization widened to include drug pipes, literature, and steroid dealers; more of the assets of those suspected of profiting from drug selling were confiscated.

Proposals to increase the surveillance and detection of drug users or sellers and to restrict their liberty became more common. Workplace drug testing and zero tolerance at the border were undoubtedly influenced by American example. The Canadian government, announcing drug testing of transport workers in order to match American practices, backtracked after trade unions, the Privacy Commission, and other groups protested.5~ A multinational corporation, Imperial Oil, initiated random drug testing of all employees in "safety sensitive" positions, and made urine testing mandatory for new employees.59 Challenges to this policy from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the unions are now before the courts. A form of zero tolerance, tried by Canadian Customs officials for a period, was withdrawn after numerous public complaints and little demonstrable payoff in detection. A federal proposal to deny parole to serious violent offenders and drug traffickers has aroused little public reaction, to date, and is apparently under active consideration despite the government's commissioned research that showed first-time trafficking offenders were a low risk group for recidivism.60 Since the Narcotic Control Act (1961) already provides life imprisonment for trafficking and importing, calls for tougher penalties must, by definition, either be symbolic or focus on actual sentencing and/or parole practices.61


This period of resurgence was marked also by substantial, renewed enforcement and harsher penalties.62 Cannabis offenses numbered about 41,000 in 1986 and 38,276 in 1990. Not only did high levels of enforcement continue, but cannabis remained the major component of antidrug activities. In 1990, Figure 2 shows that 64 percent of the 60,039 drug offenses in Canada were for cannabis; the majority were for simple possession only. Total convictions for cocaine increased from 2,793 to 6,909 between 1985 and 1989, and those incarcerated for cocaine possession went up from 17 percent to 29 percent. Since convictions (as opposed to offenses) have not been compiled or published for cannabis since 1985, the reporting of actual conviction totals since that year has been dominated by cocaine, perhaps contributing to the misleading public impression that cannabis was no longer an enforcement priority.

Increased resources were put into local drug squads. In Toronto, for example, ninety-seven new officers were added in 1989, and $1.2 million was spent on drug buys. Enforcement activity was enhanced: seizures doubled; there was a 31 percent increase in all drug charges, a 53 percent rise in trafficking charges.63 This led to the overloading of court dockets and of jail cells. In Ontario, the number sentenced to provincial correctional facilities for drug offenses rose from 1,812 in 1986-1987 to 3,137 in 1989-1990.64 This represented an increase from 4 percent to 7 percent of all Ontario incarcerations. Federally, the proportion of inmates admitted under the Narcotic Control Act grew from 9 percent to 14 percent between 1986 and 1990.

The nature of federal police activity also changed during the latter half of the 1980s when cannabis and cocaine use were in fact declining or levelling off. The RCMP focused more and more on small-scale traffickers. While cocaine trafficking charges more than doubled from 1985-1989,65 Figure 3 shows that the proportion of traffickers in the smallest amount (less than one ounce or 28 grams) more than tripled, from 10 percent to 33 percent. At the same time, those investigated for the largest amount (one kilogram or more) declined slightly, while those involving intermediate amounts declined from 53 percent to 34 percent of the total. Although seizures of cocaine were reported to have increased by 268 percent in 1989 (to 712.4 kilograms), this was due principally to a single large seizure of 500 kilograms.


The search for small-scale traffickers was even more pronounced for cannabis. Despite steady declines in use in the population as a whole, and a large drop in seizures, the RCMP maintained an almost equivalent level of charges in 1988 and 1989.66 As Figure 4 indicates, from 1985 to 1989 the proportion of traffickers in the smallest amounts nearly tripled, rising from 25 percent to 72 percent, while investigations for the largest amounts decreased from 14 percent to 4 percent of the total. -

These data for cocaine and cannabis trafficking illustrate a well-documented phenomenon in the study of crime rates in general, namely that recorded offenses will increase in direct proportion to police resources.67 This is particularly true when an activity, like drug use and sale, depends on proactive police discovery rather than a citizen-initiated response.68 Thus, the influx of resources to the police from Canada's Drug Strategy in 1987 enabled the police to demonstrate and maintain a high level of "productivity" in overall investigations, seizures, arrests, and charges. The additional funding was not contingent on the police operating any differently than they were accustomed to doing in drug matters.69 The overall drug crime rate (offenses per 100,000) climbed from 221.9 in 1986 to 258.9 in 1989.7ø That the police were able to achieve this in a time of stable or declining drug use is a telling testament to their initiative.

Following the advent of the Drug Strategy in 1987, with more government funding for prevention, the police increased their involvement also in community-based alcohol and drug education, with the production of video and other such materials. About 1,000 local officers from 128 forces were trained to deliver these programs by the RCMP's special unit, PACE, Police Assisting Community Programs. In fact, according to the Strategy's own internal assessments, the majority of its prevention resources went to police-controlled educational programming.71



It is possible that the police offficer is indeed the authority figure who can most effectively deliver the abstinence message to youth, urging them to stay away from drugs.72 The police are perhaps filling a perceived need in the community. Still, the general lack of demonstrated effectiveness in school-based programs in changing actual drug use behavior73 and the lack of systematic evaluation of the police programs,74 in relation to the variety of needs and experiences of youth, raise doubts. One concern is that preoccupation with illicit drugs diverts attention from the "real killers," alcohol and tobacco.75

Another worry is that while youthful substance use has declined overall, the proportion of heavier, more frequent users of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs has not; the "problem" continues.76 Programs to encompass less risky practices for those already using, or intending to use drugs, or who are experiencing substance-related difficulties, are perhaps not readily delivered by those whose primary role in society is identified with enforcement and punishment.77 Nor is it at all clear that adequate programs exist to meet Canadian treatment needs when large numbers of Canadians seek alcohol/drug programs in the United States; 3,500 from Ontario alone did so in 1990.78

A key social influence that facilitated the renewal of prohibitionism was the image of the drug problem presented to Canadians by the American media.79 Cocaine, especially in the form of crack, was portrayed as the drug that finally fulfilled all the expectations of the "demon drug" mythology. Represented unidimensionally as highly dangerous and addictive in virtually all popular media sources,80 the drug scare message was delivered. Although levels of cocaine use and attendant problems undoubtedly increased in Canada during the 1980s, the national survey data indicated that prevalence remained low (current use by 0.9 percent in 1985; 1.4 percent reported use in 1989).81 The province of Ontario, which has the most consistently recorded trend data, showed a decline in cocaine use in the student population after 1985 and a stable level of use for adults since then.82 Other Canadian studies showed that most used the drug infrequently and had few serious problems; the headlines told a very different story.83

This "second hand" or "borrowed" drug panic about cocaine and crack was imported from the United States as part of a larger cultural infiltration, with its highly negative evaluations of illicit drug use and users.84 The feeling of threat helped justify increasingly repressive responses against those defined as the "enemy."85 Fed by extreme views of "instant addiction," and fatal results followed by exposure to these all-powerful substances, such messages helped to build and maintain the consensus required to support the punitive and exclusionary responses to drug users.

Canada and the United States have begun to be less distinguishable in their media and other public imagery concerning drugs. A variety of antidrug messages have appeared on milk cartons, in bus shelters, on letters delivered by the post office, in children's cartoon programs, inserted into sports events on prime-time TV. Ben Johnson, after years of taking steroids and lying about it, returned in disgrace from the Seoul Olympics, repented publicly, and was soon recruited as an antidrug role model for the country's youth.86 Two people navigated Niagara Falls in a barrel, itself an offense, to show young people that there were alternatives to drugs. Canadian journalists produced their own share of "drug scare" stories, but also offered more balanced accounts such as that provided by David Suzuki's Nature of Things special on CBC, "Dealing with Drugs." This program contrasted harm reduction approaches in Liverpool and Amsterdam with the drug war in New York, and examined Canadian efforts at grappling with drug problems.8' *

While Canada did not embrace an all-out drug war comparable to the American effort, its policy seemed beset by ambivalence regarding both priorities and objectives. This contradiction was suggested by the terminology used by federal offficials in describing Canada's Drug Strategy. The focus on demand reduction over supply measures began to erode. Perrin Beatty, the Minister of Health and Welfare, struggling in 1990 to describe the Canadian policy, said: "We believe that the first course of action in combating drug abuse is to help the drug user or potential drug user. While the major priority is demand reduction, curbing supply is equally important, especially as a complement to demand reduction efforts."88 The 1990 RCMP drug report not only documented falling prices and greater purity of cocaine, but also projected easier availability of almost all illegal drugs in Canada in the next two years.89 In this context, the Solicitor General, Pierre Cadieux, who was less restrained in the use of war-like imagery, remarked: "What we're saying is that the war has not been won yet but that we are making steady progress." One can only wonder what a "setback" would be.

It has been difficult to know who spoke for, or indeed who defined Canada's Drug Strategy. There are many players, including ministers sharing cabinet responsibility, police officials, federal and provincial civil servants, and all those from addiction agencies who participated in community consultations across the country. The leadership of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), created by the 1987 initiative, saw the Strategy as a tentative step in the direction of harm minimization.90 As an example of this new direction for the future of Canadian drug policy, the Chief Executive Officer, Jan Skirrow, said:

A successful attack on the harm associated with drug use will require comprehensive social policy... every aspect of how human beings organize and govern themselves becomes an issue, because drug use is associated with nothing less than who we are as individuals, how we see our world and our place in it, and how we exercise our individual skills and abilities to live life as we wish.91

The annual report for 1990-1991 of the CCSA specifically speaks out against an American-style supply reduction focus; it emphasizes the need for "a humane and uniquely Canadian alternative to the punitive War on Drugs."

While it is premature to determine the shape drug policy will take for the rest of the 1990s3 recent statements provide certain indications. Federal ministers announce-d the renewal of Canada's Drug Strategy in March 1992 for a further five-year period, with a budget of $270 million.92 The Minister of National Health and Welfare remarked that while the "remarkable success" of the Strategy was illustrated by declines in illicit drug use, especially among young people, the problem of substance abuse still existed.93 The aim was said to be harm reduction, and the key elements were prevention and health promotion; a number of high risk groups were targeted for future attention.

The Solicitor General highlighted specific funding of $33 million for three new units to specialize in the enforcement of the Proceeds of Crime laws. He confirmed plans for the RCMP and the Department of National Defense to extend their cooperative arrangement to include both coastal surveillance and assistance on land. Also included was a plan to share forfeited crime profits with the provinces, an apparent victory for those who have argued that these funds should return to local coffers rather than go into general federal revenues. The involvement of the military and the return of seized drug assets to the police characterize current American practices. The Strategy's emphasis on demand-side measures focused on continuing and strengthening the police role in drug education: "It's no exaggeration to say that now, Canadian police forces lead the western world in the police-delivery of the drug abuse awareness, the drug prevention message to youth."94

The pronouncements surrounding the renewal of Canada's Drug Strategy appear to represent a subtle shift of emphasis. While previous statements favored a "balanced" approach, the scales of influence have tipped disproportionately to the enforcement sector, focusing both demand and supply efforts in the police. What is not explicit in this, or in the first version adopted in 1987, is recognition that the dominant policy remains one of criminalization. Nor are the various costs and limitations of the effectiveness of this approach addressed.95 Despite the care and concern expressed for young people, the fact is that adolescents and young adults are still arrested in large numbers (mainly for cannabis), go to court, get criminal records, and are often imprisoned. Indeed, the evidence demonstrates increased criminalization. With respect to drug policy, a recent all-too apt comment was: "Canada's bite is worse than its bark."96

A cynical view of the renewal of Canada's Drug Strategy might be that the catch phrase "harm reduction" is putting a new face on the established polities of prohibitionism. The downward trend in illicit drug use, already well established before the advent of the Drug Strategy, is heralded as its achievement. Personal testimony and "informed opinion" appear to be sufficient to declare the Strategy a success. If "policies are judged by their consequences but crusades by how good they make the crusaders feel," then Canada is still in search of a coherent and effective drug policy.97

An alternative, more charitable, view of recent developments in Canadian drug policy is that political leaders and other federal and provincial officials deserve credit for resisting an all-out drug war.

Demand reduction was made a funding priority. Tangible benefits of the Drug Strategy include the direction of resources to treatment programs and other community projects, the training of addiction professionals, the greater involvement of Native communities in various programs, and the improved communication and coordination of addiction groups across the country.98 The continuation of the Drug Strategy for another five years provides time to reshape the approach, perhaps redirecting enforcement efforts to more community-based ways of maintaining public order and supporting treatment efforts. The many voices involved in drug policy decisions would seem to ensure a more even-handed approach.


A Canadian, attending an international conference, recently asked an Australian what accounted for that country's greater success in taking innovative approaches to illicit drug problems. The Australian approaches, for example, have included early needle exchange pro-grams, plans for a pilot heroin maintenance program, and a ticketing system for marijuana possession. The Australian reply was, "we're just lucky to be so far away from the United States."99 Proximity may be one factor. The influence of the American media, and political and economic pressures, is felt more directly in Canada and perhaps in Mexico, than in many other countries. But other factors beyond the dominance of a smaller country by its larger neighbor also contribute. The inertia of Canada's own history, its tradition of repressive laws and criminal justice institutions and procedures, impede fundamental change in drug policy.

Canada's drug problems are considerably less serious than those in the United States, but the policies pursued in recent years reveal parallel trends. For a brief period, it appeared that a continued heavy reliance on criminalization as the dominant policy was waning, that Canada had learned from its own experiences with prohibitions, as well as those of its neighbor. For the past two decades, conflicts over the appropriate societal response to drugs in Canada have produced fluctuations ranging from great public interest, to increased tolerance during the newer wave of marijuana use, to less severity of penalties, followed by relative indifference, and then a return to increased public concern and heightened punitive responses. More recent antidrug sentiment and adverse social evaluations of drug takers may have been fostered by the drug scare over cocaine and crack use.

Twenty years ago, the Le Dain Commission (1972) set an overall goal of Canadian drug policy to achieve gradual withdrawal from criminal sanctions against the user, with the development of alternative means to discourage use and reduce harm. To continue to rely on criminalization of users and expanded enforcement activity impedes the development of less punitive interventions. The attempt to shape Canada's Drug Strategy in a new direction appears to have been compromised by a basic allegiance to prohibitionism, the perpetuation of established traditional approaches, and the further funding support for enforcement.

What elements could contribute to a more constructive drug policy, and what features could likely reduce the harmful consequences of drug use? A useful potential alternative could be rooted in a public health perspective and its harm reduction paradigm.100 As a point of departure, public health-oriented thinking questions the supply-demand dichotomy as the only dynamic for the control of substance use. A principal societal goal in health care is to maximize the health and well-being of the populace through the treatment and prevention of illness and the minimization or elimination of exposure to factors that adversely affect health, especially of the young.101 Elimination may be desirable, but if not completely attainable, effort can be focused on using regulatory controls to set standards of public safety and the minimization of risk.

For example, if one considers potentially dangerous activities voluntarily engaged in, a comparison of cocaine use and snowmobile use provides an interesting contrast in policy approaches. Deaths related to each of these activities are of similar magnitude in the province of Ontario;102 both have been a matter of public concern, but the means sought to reduce the harm of snowmobiles include licensing, age restrictions, instruction on safe use, specific areas for use, and warnings about combining alcohol and snowmobile driving There have been no efforts to ban snowmobiles or imprison their users or sellers. Essentially, in the public health model, society seeks to learn the least destructive ways to live with a certain level of activities for example, alcohol and tobacco use, the driving of motor vehicles and endeavors to minimize harm through a variety of less coercive means than criminal punishment. Criminal penalties, with respect to drug issues, are reserved for combining use with activities such as drinking and driving, that pose special risks to the safety and well-being of others. Restriction of availability is necessary for risk minimization and may involve a variety of strategies.

Harm reduction paradigms are a more recent elaboration of general public health principles that have been prompted, in part, by the AIDS epidemic among injection drug users in several countries. Several key concepts relevant to policy development have emerged as these approaches have been extended to other forms of individual and social harm related to drug use. One feature is that abstinence is not always the only appropriate objective of policy. Second, harm reduction strategies recognize that prohibition in and of itself can generate certain types of harms, at both the individual and societal levels, in direct proportion to the vigor of implementation. Third, the drug user is viewed as a member of society, and may need treatment and assistance to reintegrate into the community. Fourth, harm reduction is most often a community-based strategy and places as much or more responsibility for effectiveness on strategic partner-ships than in formal institutional interventions. Fifth, some forms of legal controls and their enforcement may be essential for harm reduction but need to be integrated into an overall strategy.

A practical example of how this might apply in Canada concerns cannabis offenses. The addition of cannabis to the Narcotic Control Act in 1923, which has been described as a "law without a prob-lem,"t03 may now create more problems than it solves. A new objective for the renewal of Canada's Drug Strategy might be for this country to lose its standing as one of the world's leaders in per capita drug arrests. This might be accomplished by stopping much of the cannabis possession enforcement activity and reducing the emphasis on small-scale traffickers. If enforcement against such offenders were curtailed, the results would likely be a net reduction in individual, social, and economic costs. Such measures could lead to significant savings of public resources, which could then be used to fund harm reduction strategies in the community, or directed to other pressing social problems. Similar arguments could be considered with respect to users of other illicit drugs, who may be in even greater need of treatment or support than cannabis users.

Observers of drug policy trends in Canada, looking towards the year 2000, consider several questions: Was the recent modest relaxation of prohibitionism merely a transient anomaly? Is the drug scare destined to be a permanent public feature that will support continuation of repressive policies? Will Canada chart a new course within the evolving model of harm reduction? Canada's prohibition policy was forged in a different era, in a very different Canada, and has dominated official response to drug use for about a century. Serious alternatives were first articulated by the Le Dain Commission. It is time to explore what a health-directed public policy for drugs could mean for Canada.


I wish to express my appreciation to Joan Moreau for the computer graphics and other assistance. l am also indebted to Bruce Alexander, Neil Boyd, the late Chet Mitchell, Eric Single, and Robert Solomon for many stimulating discussions about Canadian drug policy and to Yuet Cheung and Clifford Ottaway for their helpful comments on this paper. Any views expressed in this artide are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the Addiction Research Foundation.

Drug Arrests by State and Local Authorities

1979 1988
total state/local arrests 558,601 1,154,046
sale/manufacture 101,107 316,525
heroin/cocaine 20,688 196,384
marijuana 49,715 64,691
other 30,164 55,450
possession 475,494 837,521
heroin/cocaine 47,481 403,165
marijuana 341,305 326,922
other 68,708 107,434
federal arrests 6,343 15,750
marijuana 1,690 4,890
heroin/cocaine and other 5,653 10,850


  1. Reginald Smart and Alan Ogborne, Northern Spirits (Toronto: ARF Books,1986). For a work of fiction set in this era, see Mordecai Richler, Solomon Gursky Was Here (Markham: Viking, 1989).
  2. RCMP, National Drug Intelligence Estimate (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1990), 5.
  3. 3. David F. Musto, "Foreword" to The Steel Drug: Cocaine in Perspective, by P.G. Erickson, E.M. Adlaf, G.F. Murray, and R.G. Smart (Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1987), xv.
  4. P.James Giffen, Shirley Endicott, and Sylvia Lambert, Panic and Indifference: The Politics of Canada's Drug Laws (Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1991); and David F. Musto, The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control (New Haven: Yale University tress, 19739
  5. John Hagan, The Disreputable Pleasures: Crime and Deviance in Canada (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1991).
  6. David H. Bayley, Managmg the Future: Prospective Issues in Canadian Policing (Ottawa: The Solicitor General of Canada, 1991).
  7. Statistics Canada, Canadian Crime Statistics, 1990 (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 1991).
  8. Bayley, Managing the Future, 9.
  9. "Police Deaths Rise in War on Drugs," reported in CJ. the Americas 2 (6) (December-January 1990): 5. See also Gary T. Marx, Undercover: Police Surveillance in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988) for examples of stress and danger related to undercover narcotics work.
  10. William Kilbourn, "The Peaceable Kingdom Still," Dcedalus 117 (4) (Fall 1988):1-29.
  11. "ln Search of Canada," Dredalus 117 (4) (Fall 1988).
  12. Correctional Services Canada, 1990-1991.
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  14. Globe and Mail, 17 April 1992, A1-A2. Based on the index published in the UN Human Development Report..
  15. Bayley, Managing the Future, 9
  16. E.M. Adlaf, R.G. Smart, and M.D. Canale, Drug Use Among Ontario Adults 1977-1991 (Toronto: ARF, 1991) E.M. Adlaf and R.G. Smart, "Drug Use Among Canadian Students," Journai of Drug Issues 21 (1) (1991): 51-64; L.D. Johnston, P.M. O'Malley, and J.G. Bachman, "1990 National High School Senior Drug Abuse Survey," Press Release, 24 January 1991; National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Household Survey: Main Findings 1990 (Washington, D.C.: DHHS, 1990); Health and Wel&re Canada, National Alcohol and Drug Survey: Highlights Report (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1990).
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  19. R.G. Smart, "AIDS and Drug Abuse in Canada," Journal of Drug Issues 21 (1) (1991): 73-82.
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  24. Hagan, The Disreputable Pleasures, 221-29.
  25. Bayley, Managing the Future, 10.
  26. Robert G. Evans, "We'll Take Care of It For You: Health Care in the Canadian Community," Daedalus 117 (4) (Fall 1988): 155-89.
  27. Robert Solomon and Mel Green, "The First Century: The History of Non-Medical Opiate Use and Control Policies in Canada, 1870-1970," in J. Blackwell and P.G. Erickson, Illicit Drugs in Canada: A Risky Busmess (Toronto: Nelson Canada, 1988), 88-116.
  28. Giffen et al., Panic and Indifference.
  29. Patricia G. Erickson, Cannabis Criminals: The Social Effects of Punishment on Drug Users (Toronto: ARF, 1980).
  30. Eric Single, "The Impact of Marijuana Decriminalization: An Update," Journal of Public Health Policy 10 (4) (Winter 1989): 456-66.
  31. E.M. Bryan, "Cannabis in Canada - A Decade of Indecision," Contemporary Drug Problems 8 (1979): 169-92; P.J. Giffen and Sylvia Lambert, "What Happened on the Way to Law Reform?" in Blackwell and Erickson, Illicit Drugs in Canada, 345-69.
  32. Giffen et al., Panic and Indifference; and Solomon and Green, "The First Century:The History of Non-Medical Opiate Use and Control Policies in Canada, 1870-1970."
  33. Giffen et al., Panic and Indifference, 534.
  34. Le Dain Commission, Cannabis (Ottawa: lnformation Canada, 1972), 275.
  35. Erickson, Cannabis Criminals.
  36. 1bid., 24-28. Nevertheless, discharges were counted with convictions in official statistics.
  37. 1bid., 28-29.
  38. P.G. Erickson and G.F. Murray, "Cannabis Criminals Revisited," British Journal of Addiction 81 (1) (1986): 81-85.
  39. Joan A.E. Moreau, "Selected Statistics on Convictions for Illicit Drug Use in Canada," in Blackwell and Erickson, Illicit Drugs in Canada, 449-55.
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  41. Jerome H. Skolnick, "The Social Transformation of Vice," Law and Contemporary Problems 51 (1) (Winter 1988): 9-29.
  42. Giffen et al., Panic and Indifference, 149-62.
  43. Quoted in Bryan, "Cannabis - A Decade of Indecision," 181.
  44. See the Le Dain Commission, Final Report (1973); The US National Commission on Marijuana and Drug A8buse, Mvarijaana: A Signal of Misunderstanding (1972); The National Academy of Sciences Committee on Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior, An Analysis of Marijuana Policy (1982); and in the United Kingdom, The Advisory Coi~ncil on the Misuse of Drugs, The Effects of Cannabis Use (British Home Office, 1982).
  45. See Erickson, Cannabis Giminals, 86-97.
  46. E.M. Brecher, Licit and Illicit Drugs (Mount Vernon: Consumers Union, 1972); Daniel Glaser, "Interlocking Dualities in Drug Use, Drug Control and Crime," in J.A. Inciardi and C.D. Chambers, eds., Drugs and the Criminal Justice System (Beverly Hills: Sage,1974),39-56; P. Reuter and M. Kleiman, "Risks and Prices: An Economic Analysis of Drug Enforcement," in M. Tonry and N. Morris, eds., Crime and Justice: An Annual Re1view of Research (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986), 289-340.
  47. This list could be very lengthy, but the point is well illustrated by the contributors to this speciat issue of D"~dalus. For recent Canadian contributions to the development of drug policy alternatives, see Bruce Alexander, Peaceful Measures: Canada's Way Out of the War on Drugs (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990); Neil Boyd, High Society: Legal and Illegal Drugs in Canada (Toronto: Key Porter, 1991); Chester N. Mitchell, The Drug Solution: Regulating Drugs According to Principles of Efficiency, Justice and Democracy (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1990); and Blackwell and Erickson, "Concluding Remarks: A Risky Business" in Illicit Drugs in Canada, 444-48
  48. Patricia G. Erickson, "Living with Prohibition: Regular Cannabis Users, Legal Sanctions and Informal Controls," International Journal of the Addictions 24 (3) (1989): 175-88.
  49. Daniel Glaser, "The Criminal Law's Nemesis: Drug Control," American Bar Foundation ResearcX Journal ( 1985): 619-26.
  50. Patricia G. Erickson, "Past, Current and Future Directions in Canadian Drug Policy," International Journal of the Addictions 25 (3/A) (1990): 247-66.
  51. Personal communication, February, 1991.
  52. Erickson, "Past, Current and Future Directions," 260-61.
  53. 0ffice of National Drug Control Poliq, National Drug Control Strategy (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1989). See also Eric Single, "Canada's Drug Strategy: Does It Matter?" presented at the World Congress of Therapeutic Communities, Montreal, 24 September 1991.
  54. Minister of National Health and Welfare, Canada's Drug Strategy (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1992).
  55. RCMP, National Drug Intelligence Estimate; Solicitor General of Canada, News Release, 6 April 1992.
  56. S.J. Upsrich and R.M. Solomon, "Comment on Bill C-264," Tl7e Journal 18 (3) (March 1989): 7.
  57. The Dubin Inquiry, Commission of Inquiry into tlve Use of Drugs and Banned Substances (Toronto, 1989).
  58. The Privacy Commission of Canada, Drug Testing and Privacy (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services,1990); "The Prospect of Compulsory Drug Tests," Globe and Mail, 31 March 199w0, D5.
  59. Richard Sutherland, "Mandatory Drug Testing: Boon for Public Safety or Launch of a Witch-Hunt?" Canadian Medical Association Journal 146 (7) (1992) 1215-18.
  60. R.G. Hann and W'G. Harman, Predicting General Release Risk for Canadian Penitentiary Inmates (Ottawa: Solicitor General of Canada, 1992). For a rationale for less severe drug trafficking sentences, see N. Dorn, "Clarifying Policy Options on Drug Trafficking," in P.A. O'Hare, R. Newcombe, A. Matthews, E.C. Buning, and E. Drucker, eds., The Reduction of Drug-Related Harm (London: Routledge, 1992).
  61. The severe penalties available in the Canadian narcotic laws have always been tempered by broad prosecutorial and judicial discretion to impose less serious charges or sentences. This potential expansion of the political role in lengthening time served in prison goes against this tradition. See also R. Solomon, E. Single, and P. Erickson, "Legal Considerations in Canadian Cannabis Policy," Canadian Public Policy 9 (4) (1983): 419-33.
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  68. Lois B. de Fleur, "Biasing Influences on Drug Arrest Records: Implications for Deviance Research," American Sociological Review (40) (1975): 88-103; Alfred R. Lindesmith, The Addict and the Law (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1965); and more recently, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, Annual Report 1990-91, quoting Raymond Kendall, the Secretary General of Interpol: "If more resources are put into law enforcement, you will turn up more drugs," 5.
  69. For accounts of alternative approaches for the police to adopt, see G. Pearson, "Drugs and Criminal Justice"; L. Zaal, "Police Policy in Amsterdam"; and A. Fraser and M. George, "The Role of Police in Harm Reduction," all in P.A. O'Hare et al., eds., The Reduction of Drug-Related Harm.
  70. Williams et al., Annual Sourcebook.
  71. Health and Welfare Canada, "Update of the National Drug Strategy," May 1989, mimeograph.
  72. Others have noted that overall, police institutions in Canada have been marked by more professionalism, better wlaries, better training, less corruption, and greater political legitimacy than their US counte,rparts. The tradition of British-style, nonconfrontational policing has been strong in Canada. Law enforcement has not been undermined generally by concerns about disparity in policing and excessive violence. More recently, the growing multicultural composition of the larger cities, and some instadces of police violence against minorities, have begun to raise questions about how well the police do represent the communities they serve. Nevertheless, the considerable respect accorded historically to the police has enhanced their credibility as spokesmen in the public discourse about the threat of drugs. See Bayley, Managing the Future; and "Canada's AmericanDisease," The Economist (30 May 1992): 45.
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  74. Some evaluations have been done, but deal with "knowledge" and "satisfaction" rather than behavioral impacts. See Sandra G. Walker, Evaluation Report: Victoria Police Drug Abuse Resistance Program [DARE], 1989, mimeograph.
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  76. R.G. Smart, E.M. Adlaf, and G.W. Walsh, The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey:Trends Between 1977 and 1991 (Toronto: ARF, 1991), 120-21.
  77. P.G. Erickson, "Should Police Teach About Drugs?" The Sunday Star, 7 May 1989.
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  82. Smart et al., The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey, 80-81; and Adlaf, et al., Drug Use Among Ontario Adults, 42-43.
  83. P. Erickson et al., The Steel Drug; Y.W. Cheung and P.G. Erickson, "Crack Use in Canada: A Distant Amencan Cousin," in C. Reinarman and H.G. Levine, eds. Crack in Context: Myths, Realities and Social Policies (forthcoming); and Y.W. Cheung, P.G. Erickson, and T.C. Landau, "Experience of Crack Use: Findings from a Communitv-Based Sample in Toronto," Journal of Drug Issues 21 (1) (1991): 121-40.
  84. See E. Goode, "The American Drug Panic of the 1980's: Social Construction or Objective Threat?" The International Journal of the Addictions 26 (9) (1990): 1083-98; and D. B. Heath, "Prohibition or Liberalization of Alcohol and Drugs," in M. Galanter, Recent Developments in Alcoholism, vol. 10 (New York: Plenum, 1992) 129-45. * ,
  85. Giffen et al., Panic and Indifference, 81-86; 576-77.
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  87. Originally broadcast on the CBC, 24 November 1991.
  88. Beatty, "Drug Issues: A Canadian Perspective," 4, emphasis added.
  89. RCMP, National Drug Intelligence Estimate, 4.
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  91. 'Jan Skirrow, "Epilogue," in Giffen et al., Panic and Indifference, 584-85.
  92. The same budget that gave Canada's Drug Strategy a further five year lease on life also eliminated over twenty scientific and scholarly policy advisory groups funded by the federal government, including the Law Reform Commission of Canada.
  93. Benoit Bouchard, Speech on the Renewal of Canada's Drug Strategy, 31 March 1992.
  94. Doug Lewis, Speech on the Renewal of Canada's Drug Strategy, 6 April 1992.
  95. Cost-benefit analysis and research findings in general seem most useful to politicians in buttressing the positions they have already decided to take. Social science research seems destined to be ignored in the drug policy area, at least for the time being, much as it was in the arena of alcohol policy. See Robin Room, "Social Science Research and Alcohol Policy Making," in Paul Roman, ed., Alcohol: the Development of Sociological Perspectives on Use and Abuse (New Brunswick: Rutger's Center of Alcohol Studies, 1991).
  96. Robert McCoun, "What Harms Do Harm Reduction Strategies Reduce? A Cross-National Study of Heroin Addiction," keynote address presented at the Third Annual Conference on Harm Reduction, Melbourne, Australia, 23 March 1992.
  97. Thomas Sowell, Compassion v. Guilt and Other Essays (New York: William Morrow, 1987).
  98. CCSA, Annual Report 1990-91.
  99. The exchange occurred in a plenary session of the Third International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm, Melbourne, Australia, 23-27 March 1992. Various sessions at the meeting also highlighted these Australian examples.
  100. John Ashton and Howard Seymour, The New Public Health (Milton Keynes: Open University Press,1988); and P. O'Hare et al., eds., The Reduction of Drug Related Harm.
  101. P.H.M. Lohman, K. Sankaranarayanan, and J. Ashby, "Choosing the Limits of Life," Nature 357 (21 May 1992): 185-86; and Patricia G. Erickson, "A Public Health Approach to Demand Reduction," Journal of Drug Issues 20 (4) (1990): 563-75.
  102. B. Rowe, R. Milner, C. Johnson, and G. Bota, "Snowmobile-related deaths in Ontario: A 5-yelr Review," Canadian Medical Association Journal 146 (1992): 147-52; and Chief Coroner's Offfice of Ontario, 1991.
  103. Giffen et al., Panic and Indifference.

Our valuable member Patricia Erickson has been with us since Sunday, 19 December 2010.

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