As I had blogged about back in Febuary, Canada had seen a number of deaths related to “ecstasy”. Ecstasy, which is slang for what is supposed to MDMA- one of the safer drugs known. Indeed- the scientist who headed the UK’s advisory council on the misuse of drugs created an uproar, which led to his firing and the rest of the council resigning in protest, that MDMA was safer then riding a horse. This coming during the councils scientific evaluation of numerous drugs- both legal and illegal, and ranking their harm to both the individual and society. The paper, published in the prestigious and peer reviewed medical journal “The Lancet” found alcohol and tobacco, along with heroin and crack cocaine and methamphetamine to lead in the harms to individual and/or society, while drugs such as marijuana, mdma, and lsd were near the bottom.
Anyway- the drug that caused the deaths was not MDMA, but one of the more toxic “mimic” drugs, a drug known as PMMA. And of course- due to prohibition there is no quality control, no labeling laws, and an environment where quick profit often rules over quality. Make a bad batch? Just change the pill stamp- and no one is the wiser. There is little to no accountability. The same thing we saw during alcohol prohibition- cut the liquor with methanol or other dangerous adulterants- increase profits, and just change the bottle and label when your product gets a bad rep. And smile all the way to bank…
Of course now that Canada has a conservative government, the deaths were a good excuse to make the laws even more draconian. And of course, in the name of being “tough on crime” the police refused to disclose which pill stamps were involved- leading to more deaths. (wouldn’t want people doing good ecstasy now would we… drug users DESERVE to die )
But now Canadian health officials, such as British Columbias Dr Pery Kendall are speaking up, and saying it’s time for reform. Saying that prohibition has not only failed- but does more harm then good. That prohibition has little effect on supply or demand- and that many of the health problems associated with drugs result from users having little to no idea exactly which drugs and adulterants they are ultimately taking, the purity, the correct dosage. He and others have promoted the idea of state run stores, tightly regulated, allowing the consumer to obtain known substances of known purity. He, and a host of doctors and public health officials across Canada contend that such a health oriented program would reduce drug use- as similar programs have in Portugal and the Netherlands. Severely reducing use by minors. And severely reducing deaths and other health issues. While at the same time greatly reducing costs to the taxpayer from both futile enforcement and the costs related to health issues.
Robert Strang, Nova Scotias chief medical examiner has said: “It means getting away from ideologically based approaches,”… “I’m challenging the government to say we have to do things differently, because our current approach is clearly not working.”
Of course, the conservatives are having none of it. They insist on continuing with their failed, and expensive drug war. And refuse to listen to the scientific evidence- whether it is just how harmless some of these “dangerous drugs” really are, or just how well health based drug policy has worked in other countries.
So they continue to condemn their citizens to jail, to having a permanent criminal record, and to death…often while consuming two of the most dangerous drugs known to man- Alcohol and Tobacco.
And as an interesting footnote- in the US it is now easier to get federal approval to do human research with MDMA then it is with Marijuana. Of course…that may well change if Romney wins over Obama- the conservatives will likely do as Reagan did- ignore the science…for MDMA was made a schedule I drug in the US under Reagan- whose administration ignored the recommendations of both the scientific panel set up to study it, and the administrative law judge- both of whom insisted it should be schedule III.