Drug Policies Require More Humility, Less Virtue Signaling
Brandon Sun, February 11, 2019 –
Much about drugs and drug policy is counter-intuitive. It would seem to make sense to wage an all-out War on Drugs. It would seem to make sense to stigmatize and criminalize drug addicts. And it would seem to make sense to warn kids with the simple message: don’t use drugs.
There is only one problem: these policies don’t work. We see more drugs becoming more available even as we have ramped up the War on Drugs. We continue to see new addiction even as generations of civic leaders have followed Nancy Reagan in telling kids: “just say no.”
So, politicians play “let’s pretend.” They pretend they know what they are doing. They want to be seen as being tough on crime, even though they know the War on Drugs has failed. It is easier to pretend to be tough than to show some humility. And it is easier to pretend than to admit that alternative approaches – especially legalization, regulation and strategies like safe injection sites – could work here as they have elsewhere.
The opposition NDP released a 20-page statement on drugs last month. The title is We Have to Start Here: Addressing the Root Causes of Manitoba’s Addictions Crisis and Reducing Harm From Problematic Meth Use. In the statement, the NDP comes out in favour of safe injection sites. Too bad the NDP waited until they are safely out of power to endorse this policy!
But the Conservatives accidentally revealed that they, too, see the need for safe injection sites. They released their own addictions report in May of last year. They issued a revised version a few hours later, after deleting the report’s safe injection site recommendation!
The Manitoba NDP says that the “root causes of addiction” are “poverty, adverse childhood events and systemic inequality.” I question this assumption. Billions of people in the world are economically worse off than the poor in Manitoba. People everywhere face poverty, adversity and inequality. Yet internationally, these conditions do not doom people to addiction like the NDP seems to think happens in Manitoba. Why is this? Can we learn from perspectives that are more global and more holistic?
There is a laudatory aspect of the NDP statement. They used anonymous sources, so that individuals could speak freely. Anonymity allowed “experts across both health-care and the justice system” to point out the disaster of current drug policy. Their conclusion: the “War on Drugs has been shown to be counterproductive and has actually coincided with an increase in drug use.”
Let me repeat that: the War on Drugs is counterproductive; drug use has increased! Reality, however, doesn’t deter the NDP from asserting – three sentences later – that law enforcement can someday “choke off the supply of drugs.” Can we go beyond such delusion and investigate decriminalization, legalization and regulation of all drugs? (Such measures have reduced drug use in places like Portugal.)
There is plenty of NDP virtue signaling. The NDP wants us to know that they see things through “Indigenous, gender and LGBTQ2S* lenses.” OK, the NDP is “woke.” But they waited until they are out of power before recommending the health-care system have “a focus on creating queer specific services, women specific services and Indigenous culture safety training.”
The Conservatives also excel at simplistic messaging and virtue signaling. “Our government will continue to warn kids about the dangers of using illicit drugs,” Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen says. “The message is quite simple: don’t use drugs.”
“I’ve raised three boys to adulthood,” Minister Cullen gloats, “and I’m proud to say that I told them never to use illicit drugs – and they haven’t.” There: it’s so simple! That ought to shut up any families who dare struggle with addiction!
Both Conservative and NDP politicians are great at pretending they know what to do about drugs and addiction. I long for the day when we citizens can see Manitoba’s elected leaders show more compassion, more humility and less virtue signaling.
Reflections on the War on Drugs
Can We Learn from the New Science of Psychedelics?
Review – The War on Drugs: A Failed Experiment
End the War on Drugs and Find a Better Solution
The Fantasyland of the War on Drugs
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My Sites / Interests
- Citizen Active
- The Great War
- Live Well, Do Good
- Manitoba History
- Obituary Guide
- The War on Drugs
Some Reviewed Books:
The War on Drugs:
A Failed Experiment
The Atheist Muslim:
A Journey from Religion to Reason
Stranger Than We Can Imagine:
An Alternative History of the 20th Century
Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
Islam and the Future of Tolerance:
The Greatest Show on Earth:
The Evidence for Evolution