Victoria cop calls to legalize drugs

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Cops like David Bratzer are a rare breed.

      Think of the late Gil Puder. A distinguished Vancouver police officer, Puder called for an end to the war on drugs while he was in active service during the late 1990s and continued to do so despite threats of disciplinary action from his superiors.

      Or the recently retired West Vancouver police chief Kash Heed. At one time, while he was still with the Vancouver police, Heed, according to Bratzer, also spoke about the legalization of drugs.

      Bratzer has been with the Victoria police for only three years, and already the 31-year-old officer has stepped forward to question the basis of the country’s drug laws.

      “As a police officer, you always want to help people, so it’s very frustrating to be a police officer and enforce laws that are not necessarily helpful,” Bratzer told the Georgia Straight by phone.

      Last month, he addressed participants in a cannabis convention held at the University of Victoria, where he presented his proposals for a post-prohibition era.

      Step one, he said, is to legalize all drugs. Step two is for the provincial government to regulate drugs in the same way it regulates alcohol. Step three, he continued, is to decide what to do with the “peace dividend” or the funds that government can save by stopping the war on drugs.

      Bratzer also told participants at the convention, which was organized by the International Hempology 101 Society, that among the things guaranteed in a war-on-drugs regime is criminal activity. This comes from both drug users in need of money for a quick fix and organized-crime groups involved in the production and distribution of drugs, he said.

      Coming out to speak about these things as a volunteer with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition—a Massachusetts-based group composed of current and former members of the police and justice communities—isn’t easy.

      “It’s been mixed,” Bratzer said when asked about the reaction of his Victoria police colleagues. He stressed that his views are entirely his own and do not reflect the position of the police department.

      He also has two older brothers who are with the Victoria police. “We have talked about it,” Bratzer said. “They understand that I have my own opinions and they respect that. They don’t necessarily agree with me but they respect my right to free speech.”

      The Straight caught up with B.C. solicitor general John van Dongen earlier this month at a private screening of A Warrior’s Religion, a documentary dealing with gangs in the South Asian community. When asked about the prospects of legalization, van Dongen said: “That is a federal issue and certainly the Conservative government has made their position clear that they’re not going there.”

      Where Canada’s war on drugs may lead to in the future worries Tony Smith, a retired 28-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department and also a LEAP member.

      In Mexico, Smith noted, drug cartels have grown so powerful with profits from the drug trade that they can either buy off police, judges, and politicians or kill them at will.

      “What’s really the difference here and there?” Smith asked in a phone interview with the Straight.

      In the U.S., according to Smith, there’s much talk about drug corruption among law enforcers. That may not be the case in Canada, but he warned that once it starts happening here, “you won’t know which policemen are under the pay of the drug people and which policemen aren’t” and “it’s a very thin line once you approach that point.”

      Referring to the ongoing turf war among gangs here in the Lower Mainland, Smith noted that drug lords now don’t seem to care about “what level of violence they’re using amongst themselves”.

      What if, Smith asked, somebody comes “stepping out of the line and thinks, ”˜Well, you know, screw it. I’m in a bit of a problem here. I’ll just take out the policeman or the judge or whatever.’ And once that occurs, then we’ll have total anarchy.”

      The war on drugs

      > Share of enforcement-related activities in Canada’s drug strategy: 75 percent

      > Share of drug-related criminal charges in Canadian courts in 2002: 23 percent

      > Cost associated with drug cases before the courts in 2002: $330 million

      > Policing costs for drug enforcement in 2002: $1.43 billion

      > Correctional-service costs associated with drugs in 2002: $573 million

      > Canadians reporting having used illicit drugs during their life in 1994: 28.5 percent

      > Canadians reporting illicit-drug use during their life in 2004: 45 percent

      Source: “Canada’s 2003 renewed drug strategy—an evidence-based review”, published in the HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review’s December 2006 edition

      Comments

      We're now using Facebook for comments.

      9 Comments

      Foresight

      Mar 19, 2009 at 10:06am

      With the American people's appitite of 350 metric tons of cocaine and 20 metric tons of heroin each year, why would any "intellegent Canadian" take the advice of the American police? L.E.A.P., law enforcement against prohibition? Law enforcement is the epitome of 'prohibition' and the prohibitionist mentality! The Americans have been fighting all kind of 'wars' since WW2 and haven't "won one yet". With all of this in mind, one would think that America the Beautiful is a "crime and drug infested cesspool"!
      LEAP should jump back to their "cesspool" and take care of the problems their govt. has caused their country!
      As for the Canadian police, We have a website dedicated to their incompetence. Police Integrity Guarantees Sovereignty, www.thepigs.ca

      thecossack

      Mar 22, 2009 at 12:45pm

      Canada has never had a war on drugs and probably never will. As for speaking out, the police should be neutral and enforce the laws the people enact without injecting their own morality or point of view. That is the whole idea. Judges are supposed to be paragons of independence, but even they, like Jerry Jerome Paradis, have been living a lie in that independence and neutrality when you find out their real thoughts upon retirement.

      As for LEAP, made in America.

      Croft Woodruff

      Oct 27, 2009 at 10:47am

      The first two blogs epitomizes the general lack of knowledge on the part of the public as to the real reasons we have an "illicit drug" problem in the first place.
      People profess their support of "free enterprise" but making drugs illegal immediately creates a scarcity that, until their having been outlawed, was limited to a very small market of users. Artificial scarcity creates artificially high prices and profits which in turn encourages promotion of the product , its distribution, its use and itsdemand.

      Take out the profit by legalizing the drugs, make them available for free to addicts and at cost to the MD's, lawyers, and others of society off who use them in the privacy of their homes.

      Why not go after the real killers - alcohol, tobacco and the pharmaceuticals? The latter kill hundreds of thousands every year - judging by the lawsuits won by the victims and their surviving relatives - the awards and assessed fines amount to billions of dollars and that only covers the past ten years.

      Drug ads which received the most letters citing violations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1997 included: Some of these withdrawn drugs, such as 'Redux', 'Seldane', 'Propulsid', 'Rezulin' , Vioxx, Bextra, Baycol, were prescribed MILLIONS OF TIMES. According to Dr. Alastair J.J. Wood, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a staggering 19.8 million patients (almost 10% of the United States population) were estimated to have been exposed to just 5 of the 10 drugs withdrawn in the past 10 years.

      (Source: Consumer Reports February 2003 68:(2)33-37)

      Reality check

      Mar 27, 2010 at 10:53am

      At the core of the drug problem is the demand for mind altering drugs. If we do not address this fact and work to reduce the demand, problems will persist if not increase as the normalization of the drug culture will make it as social norm for people to seek to get high.
      The reference about banned RX drugs is very relevant. Many of these drugs have been banned because of the real and potential harm they cause. Some have been removed as a result of 2 or 3 deaths or a relatively small number of injuries. Following these principle of ensuring that we should only allow medicine that are shown to be safe and effective, why should we entertain legalizing drugs that have been shown to directly and indirectly caused harm, injuries and with many, death . With millions of dollars in lawsuits for now banned RX drugs, how long do you think it will take for lawsuits to start when we introduce drugs into the legal market that are KNOWN beforehand to be harmful and dangerous. How long do you think it will take for insurance companies to deny coverage or claims for those using known harmful and mind altering drugs. How long do you think it will take employers to demand drug testing and other restrictive measures to ensure that they protect themselves, their products, their employees and their insurance liability?
      If you think that legalizing drugs will crush organize crime and eliminate drug related violence, you are deluding yourselves. Do you think that after legalization, the Hell’s Angels are going to start selling Girls Guide cookies and start running puppy shelters? No, Organized crime groups will simply adapt to the new reality and seek to influence if not control the legal and regulated markets all the while thriving in the continued black market that will simply continue to violently compete to maintain a healthy profit margin. Legalization will probably remove the small unorganized players but the well established and violent groups and gangs will easily be able to compete with the regulated market. Legalization will invariably bring regulation, safety and potency standards, controls, security and a new bureaucracy as well as taxes. This will bring high price( to cover costs and taxes)s and low potency (to ensure “safety standards”) that will very easily be trumped by organized crime groups who will be able to offer more potent drugs at cheaper prices. The existing and thriving multi billion dollars illegal cigarette market is a case in point. People who seek drugs will want to get the strongest stuff at the cheaper prices.
      Add to this the fact that since all proposed drug legalization schemes provide for those drug s remaining illegal for youth. Organized crime groups will increase their efforts to target the very target market that is the most vulnerable.
      It is simple really, If you truly care and wish to reduce the impact of violence and organized crime, boycott drug dealers !

      inception2202

      Sep 19, 2010 at 12:04pm

      I totally agree with his view, and as a man of law, he must know that is a lot easier to control drugs if their legal. You cut off the money drug dealers make and you get too control the quantity sold, the quality etc. Of course, I wouldn't agree with legalizing heroin r not even cocaine... But weed is ok! I worked as a volunteer in this <a rel="follow" href="http://www.stopaddiction.com">Narconon</a> clinic, and never met a patient that ended up in there because of weed.

      ethos2001

      Oct 9, 2010 at 6:19am

      What I think we really need is more focus on the problems of alcohol which are far greater than those of drugs, maybe legalizing drugs will lower the common dependency on alcohol which can become dangerous and cost a lot more in the long run. The money made with new taxes could be spent on provide more alcohol and drug rehab programs to help those who are struggling with addiction.

      scott88

      Jan 6, 2011 at 6:27pm

      Alcohol is a big problem. I believe more deaths are related to alcohol than all other drugs combined. The fact that you can purchase alcohol anywhere must make it really difficult for the recovering alcoholic. Alcohol is an addictive drug and if someone seeks treatment at a <a href=http://www.drug-rehab.org/inpatient-drug-rehab.html>drug inpatient rehab</a> and totally changes his or her life, I believe they can have victory and break free from their addiction to alcohol.

      Jane Austen

      Jun 7, 2011 at 10:34am

      I'm kind of torn on this subject. I can see where people are coming from by legalizing some drugs, and then just regulating who gets them, but I don't completely agree with it. I have had quite a few friends that have given in to their <a href="http://arkrecovery.com">alcohol addiction</a> because, like Scott88 said, it's accessible. I can help but think about what will happen when we make drugs that accessible.