The “War On Drugs”

The “War On Drugs” Is Winding Down – So What Happens Now?

Presenter: John Pope

June, 2016

Law enforcement agencies in the US, Canada and around the world have acknowledged that the war on drugs has failed. In recent years in Canada, the emphasis has slowly moved from arrests and imprisonment to education and rehabilitation programs.

Yesterday, the UN began the Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS). Much of the discussion will no doubt involve how to wind down the “war on drugs”. Several treaties will likely be rewritten or eliminated altogether.

Canada is a signatory to the three UN drug control treaties: The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, The 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and The 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

The War Winds Down In Canada

The war on drugs is dead, and Canada can fill the void it left with a well-regulated system:

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Bill Blair’s opinion of Canada’s international treaties on drugs:

The History of the war on drugs

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants.

The era of George W. Bush also witnessed the rapid escalation of the militarization of domestic drug law enforcement. By the end of Bush’s term, there were about 40,000 paramilitary-style SWAT raids on Americans every year – mostly for nonviolent drug law offenses, often misdemeanors.

Canada and other countries were convinced to join the war on drugs, and penalties and enforcement increased around the world.

Drug abuse in Canada

There were about 109,000 police-reported Controlled Drugs and Substances Act violations in 2013, a rate of 310 per 100,000 population. Cannabis accounted for the majority of police-reported drug offences, representing about two-thirds of all drug offences in 2013.

Drug abuse in the USA

* 100,000 drug offenders in federal custody.

* In 2014, 47,000 Americans died of overdoses.

* In 2010, Americans spent about $100 billion annually on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and meth, according to the Office of Drug Control Policy.

* Drug abuse prevention and research — up from about $5 billion in 2008 to almost $15 billion in 2016


Health Canada will take steps to allow doctors to prescribe heroin for patients with particular needs — that would be those with serious or life-threatening conditions for whom conventional treatments have proved ineffective — under a special access program.


What will replace the war on drugs in Canada? Will drug abuse increase or decrease as a result of this change in policy?

If all drugs were made legal, what would happen?

Can we trust government authorities to decide which drugs should be de-criminalized or made legal?

Will the proposed more relaxed approach to drugs increase abuse?

Can the model of alcohol control and restriction be used to control drugs?

Who wins and who loses if drugs are de-criminalized?