By Gil Puder
Presentation to the Fraser Institute
to the urban Drug Problem
Author's Note: The opinions rendered in this presentation are solely those of the
author, and are not intended to represent any other individual, group, or
Editor's Note: Constable Puder is under threat of discipline from his Vancouver Police
Chief for participating in the Fraser Institute Forum and for makingthis poublic presentation.
To limit the questions that one asks and the answers that one
ventures to those sanctioned by officialdom is to forsake our moral and intellectual obligations to
both our profession and our society --- Ethan Nadelman
My belief that the war on drugs must end arises from the damage being
done to both
policing and the society it serves. The tactics, weaponry, and propaganda of our 20th
Century narcotic prohibition have been borrowed from a Western military model, yet in
their misguided application have generated nothing other than systemic conflict that has
overwhelmed our justice and health care systems. Being a frontline police officer, I am
deeply troubled by any example of counterproductive law enforcement. Talented officers
diligently perform what many honestly believe to be their duty, placing themselves and
others in harm's way to intervene in matters of personal choice. Unwittingly, however, this
merely raises the stakes in a game where criminal cartels meet the demand
that our forefathers rather arbitrarily declared to be illegitimate1 And while we
attempt the impossible with increasingly limited resources, elected officials abdicate
responsibility for legislation needed to reduce the harm to society. In a pointless civil war
at the turn of the millenium, we need to, "unlearn the habits we have taught ourselves, or we
shall not survive."2 Rather than assigning
victory or defeat, Canadians must
fundamentally change the strategies of several interwoven social institutions, policing being
the keystone among them.
I faithfully subscribe to Sir Robert Peel's admonition to, "maintain at all times a
relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the
public and the public are the police." While strongly believing in devotion to duty, I
subordinate the unique requirements of my profession to responsibilities as a human being,
parent, and Canadian citizen, who has no desire to raise his children in a country torn by
needless criminality. My commitment cannot be fulfilled in a military
context, applying the law in a punitive manner to people unfairly labeled as amoral losers.
Harsh, reactionary criminal justice has proven woefully miscast as a control mechanism for
drug use. A truly comprehensive strategy is now required, including a legalized, controlled
drug supply, coupling enforceable and decriminalized regulation with health, education,
and economic programs. The challenge for policing is to measure traditional drug war
practices against the integrity of truly ethical conduct, and where our performance is less
than exemplary, take a leadership role in identifying overdue legislative change.
Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.
"Bullet with Butterfly Wings" --The Smashing Pumpkins
Decades of drug war have led us to abandon of one of Peel's fundamental principles, "to
recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and
not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them." By this criterion drug
enforcement has failed utterly, with no evidence more damning than agencies repeatedly
inviting the media to view "trophy busts", exemplified by marijuana growing operations
and imported cocaine or heroin seizures. If police enforcing criminal prohibition were the
appropriate substance control mechanism, then our drug-free communities should render
such events a curious rarity. Showcasing these raids as examples of success, however,
only proves the failure of criminal drug policies.
Changing our approach, however, means addressing an entrenched police culture that
rewards traditional performance measures, such as arrests, rather than citizen satisfaction
and neighbourhood livability. Careers and reputations are too often built upon a
demonstrated willingness to intervene strictly, often forcefully, without circumspection or
remorse. Research long ago identified aggressive enforcement and a game-like atmosphere
as features of drug policing, which make it an attractive field of
endeavour3 In the many agencies fielding
drug squads as specialized assignments, there is no
shortage of officers waiting to enlist. Today, some officers may still use this type of work to
burnish their "Blue Knight" image, discarding discretion in favour of statistics and
Make no mistake, drug-related arrests can be very easy, with hundreds of available,
identifiable targets on city streets. Contrary to the Hollywood image, we rarely catch
wealthy black marketeers living in mansions and driving expensive automobiles. Reality
finds bikers and other high-level gangsters using their profits for lawyers and accountants,
effectively layering themselves from the transaction process.4 Arrests usually involve
poor, hungry people on street corners or in rooming houses and filth-strewn alleyways.
Driven by various needs to obtain a drug or the money to effect its purchase, many users
need simply be watched for a period of time before some criminal offence occurs, often a
small drug sale or break-in to home or vehicle. This enforcement strategy flies in the face
of the fact that there will always be too many users, and never enough police. Moreover,
our courts now recognize most street level arrests as either consenting adults or people
who have an underlying disorder, and are consequently reluctant to impose sanctions.
Progress, however, is thwarted by a system that rewards such a "cherry-picking"
approach. Administrative requirements for drug arrests are simplified without the burden
of witness or victim interviews and statements. Officers can get out of the office and back
"on the street" that much faster, and trafficking or possession busts seldom require follow-
up work assigned by Crown Counsel. Like most professional people, we promote peer
approval towards a demonstrated work ethic, and what better way to build your image
than with a "bad guy" in jail, and drug exhibits or some recovered property as your visible
evidence of success? Furthermore, commendations and promotion are often the result of
high arrest statistics. Finally, court cases can earn officers large amounts of publicly
funded overtime pay, the lesson being quickly learned that maximizing arrests maximizes earning
Over and above rewards for the status quo, there are three major obstacles to modernizing
law enforcement attitudes. Firstly, people persistently and wrongly identify drugs, rather
than prohibition, as the cause of related criminal activity5. Many of my peers are unaware
of the physiological effects of various controlled substances, and our insular professional
culture discourages police from accessing up-to-date information. The drug war is also a
turf war, resulting in medical and criminological research being regularly ignored or
discredited. Some officers would be embarrassed to admit that they don't understand
research findings, while others seem threatened by a potential change to their traditional
way of doing business. We're continually bombarded by self-proclaimed police "drug
experts", who speak to schoolchildren and make media releases on behalf of their
agencies, readily contradicting scholarly analyses with smear tactics and conjecture.6 It's
commonplace to find examples7 of police
promoting dogma that all drugs should be
treated equally, including the groundless myth that drug use inevitably results in criminal
conduct. Our self-imposed ignorance causes us to blame drug symptoms, rather than
prohibition money, as the impetus for most property and some violent crime.
Such willful blindness results in agencies painting themselves into a corner with
wrongheaded public statements and questionable conduct. No one should then be
surprised when closing ranks in denial is the standard response to an overwhelming body
of empirically proven evidence; does anyone know a cop or politician who admitted they
were wrong recently? Shortly after I publicly questioned Canada's illicit narcotic policies, a
drug squad officer proclaimed the necessity of "dope work," as a prerequisite to
understanding the issue of illicit narcotics. I observed that he was relaxing over a beer and
a cigarette, however, and couldn't cite one piece of published research. Considering that
tobacco and alcohol have more damaging physiological effects than marijuana8, certain
professional measures of success appear inconsistent with natural justice. Particularly
when many police confess at the application stage of their career to marijuana use as teens,
we can be painfully sensitive to appearances of institutionalized hypocrisy.
Lastly, labeling drug users conveniently removes any need for introspection about using
government power to remove a person's rights and freedoms. Marginalized people simply
require less respect. At the end of every shift, one hears officers extolling the virtues of
apprehending a "hype", "junkie", or "druggie." Since these tools for financial benefit,
career advancement, and peer status are no longer valued as people, officers need not
trouble themselves with ethical questions. Police are far from unique in this regard, and
merely reflecting attitudes offering little sympathy for drug users. I often hear someone in
social conversation opine that "junkies should be shot," and yet, having had to shoot an
addicted bank robber myself, I can safely say that most people would be unable to fulfil
their "final solution".
Turning sick people into monsters is useful for drug warriors, since it impedes serious
consideration of enforcement alternatives. This perversion of morality enables politicians
to crowd the drug war bandwagon to cultivate a "tough guy" image, yet the toughest
fights they will ever face are in taxpayer-funded conferences and luncheons, far from the
gutter reality of death on the streets they claim to represent. Most officers have no desire
to use their policing skills as an enforcement arm of the prevailing political or bureaucratic
interests. Communities are fed up with criminality, and inappropriate uses of our criminal
justice system produces frustrated police, who make predictable mistakes. Abusive
enforcement is symptomatic of our failure to reduce drug-related crime, yet such
behaviour merely worsens a world we can't escape.
AN ETHICAL STANDARD
"Me thinks she doth protest too much" -- Shakespeare, "Taming of the Shrew"
An effective method of evaluating the drug war is to examine its impact on the collective
integrity of our calling. A renowned ethicist has found that, "integrity in the context of
police work should amount to the sum of the virtues required to bring about the general
goals of protection and service to the public."9 If we examine drug enforcement practices,
such virtues are sadly lacking, raising uncomfortable issues of character and professionalism.
Effacement of self-interest recognizes that the "exploitability" of people must not allow
them to become a means to advance our power, prestige, or profit, or a means for
advancing goals of the organization other than protection and service.10 This virtue is an insidious casualty of the
drug war, and policing is one of several
professions with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Unfortunately, money provides
incentive to continue old-school practices. Line officers can earn large amounts of overtime pay
generated by drug arrests; when the Federal Crown office began diverting charges for
simple possession arrests, I observed several officers quickly transfer to other assignments,
citing reduced income as their motivator. Careerists can use what may be meaningless
arrest statistics as performance measures to advance their rank and salary. At the top of this
continuum, managers and spokespeople have from the inception of drug prohibition
publicized gang crime and drug money, pressuring elected officials into coughing up more
public cash for an expanded enforcement empire.11
In extreme cases the self-interest mentality manifests itself with classic
examples of police corruption. Few agencies of any description have been immune from officers
seduced by drug money, losing officers who breach their trust and succumb to the lure
of easy cash Occasionally the size and complexity of such corruption can be staggering,
with agencies now mounting "sting" operations to ferret out organized crime in uniform.12
Although such examples are thankfully rare, the frequency seems to be distressingly
on the rise, and the ingredients only too obvious: an insolvable problem, large numbers of
people who are willing to pay obscene amounts and an arbitrary, ineffective law. The
combined temptation for the weak-willed can be enormous. While the acts are inexcusable, they
are merely symptomatic of an underlying dysfunction.
For the overwhelming majority of officers who steadfastly perform their duty, our police
self-image is too often defined by the drug war, allowing some officers the conceit that
warrior-saviour is the characterization of our calling. More powerful than any narcotic is
the intoxicating effect on our ego when a frightened populace looks to us for salvation.
Although we relish the prestige of this role, deified police officers confronting demonized
drug users is a recipe for abuse. The most repugnant example is the unnecessary shooting
of people, many of whom are unarmed. I'm the first to defend everyone's right to use every
reasonable means to defend their safety, and spend much of my time training others to do
so. Unfortunately, "man has a potentiality for violence that cannot be denied,"13 and it's
therefore inexcusable that drug war needlessly forces officers to risk using their skills and
firearms. An addict robbed a bank in 1984 carrying only a replica weapon, and was killed
by a bullet from the real gun I fired. Local teenager Danny Possee died in 1992 during a
police raid for a small amount of marijuana, and lest anyone mistakenly believe that we
actually learn from such tragedy, an unarmed Lower Mainland man was shot and killed
last year, while sitting in his vehicle during a drug arrest. In war, however, both sides take
casualties: I lost my friend and colleague Sgt. Larry Young a decade ago, killed by a
trafficker in a cocaine raid gone wrong. Until policing expunges the politically supported
fallacy that a drug war can be won, this unnecessary killing will continue.
Acknowledging when we do not know something and being humble enough to admit ignorance is
the virtue of intellectual honesty.14 At the
best of times,
this is terribly difficult for police officers to maintain; after all, when you're presumed to have all
answers, disguising personal opinions as fact is often irresistible. This drug war, however,
is the worst of times, and I'm appalled at the frequency with which some of my colleagues
defend enforcement practices with completely unsupportable commentary. Despite the
plethora of self-anointed "drug experts" in policing, who seldom hesitate to publicly
volunteer opinion, I've never observed a medical or pharmacological study being
referenced. Considering this paucity of true expertise, subsequent law enforcement spin-
doctoring reinforces the theory that truth is war's first casualty.15 A recent example16
involved a senior officer basing his opposition to decriminalization with a discourse on
consistent education and mixed messages to young people. Unfortunately, the track record
of drug war certainly includes a willingness to be less than forthright when educating our children.
This intellectual dishonesty is painfully apparent when agencies appropriate the educator's
mandate, substituting police for professional teachers. One only has to examine the abuses
of the expensive and dubiously effective DARE program in the U.S.17
Extensive studies detail the failures of DARE18 and the U.S. General Accounting Office
conspicuously declined to include the program in it's recent evaluation of drug
education.19 Yet the West Vancouver
Police Department is now delivering the program to local
schoolchildren.20 I wonder if parents and
local taxpayers are aware that 1998 University of
Illinois research found greater drug use among students who had experienced DARE? In our
information-based society we can't patronize people anymore, regardless of their age. A
resurgence of marijuana use in Western societies is remarkably coincidental with electronic
information on the world-wide web, and one must ask how many teenagers now simply
disregard their cigarette-smoking or alcohol-drinking parents, teachers and police as
True justice is a virtue measured within the context of each unique situation,21 and in our
exercise of discretion policing has had mixed results. Today I observe fewer officers
arresting people for simple narcotic possession, with some perhaps recognizing that
criminal process in these cases serves no one and squanders scarce taxpayer dollars. I
recently observed two of my colleagues in a televised detention of an addict,22 who
compassionately advised the user to fix in his room rather than the alley.
At the other extreme, however, officers can abuse their discretionary power, taking a zero
approach and charging for less than wholesome purposes. Thousands of Canadians can
attribute their criminal record to a combination of recreational drug use and a verbal
altercation with the police. They may have been charged with a minor possession offence,
but their real crime was "contempt of cop." On other occasions a person arrested for a
serious offence will be detained while possessing some small amount of drugs, and is then
additionally charged for the trivial and unrelated drug matter, which might not otherwise
not be proceeded with. Neither our integrity nor the public purse can afford to continue
these abuses of criminal law. People rightfully expect a degree of certainty in their justice
system, and the present unreliability makes modernized statute a necessity. To effectively
protect us from ourselves, policing should not be too proud to ask first.
I believe that the drug war has been most noticeably bereft, however, of the virtue of accepting
alternatives,23 whereby we admit that
mistakes have been made,
and, more importantly, honestly acknowledge that law enforcement does not, and never will have
the answers. Again we need merely ask ourselves when the last time, in any context, a police
representative publicly stated that they were sorry, wrong or that
better choices could have been made. This unfortunate characteristic of our professional culture
clearly identified in British Columbia,24
and sadly, seems to be endemic in public service throughout North America. With fiscal restraint
and "fear of crime" combining to place
enormous and often unrealistic expectations on police services, it's easy to be pessimistic that
open-mindedness will be rediscovered anytime soon. Blaming convenient
scapegoats is simply an easier, politically expedient option.
A recent, local example25 involved a
Chief Constable who criticized the entire judiciary as
not being, "in touch with the community," justifying his sweeping condemnation with an
example of a drug trafficker who received probation. Disagreeing with decriminalization
of marijuana, he predictably opted for the tired refrain of harsher sentencing, complaining
that, "there are more consequences for walking down the street with an open
can of beer than there is for possession of soft drugs." In an amazing
self-contradiction, this senior officer admits the effectiveness of our non-criminal Liquor Control
Licensing Act regulation, yet denies that it should be applied to a substance proven to
be less harmful than alcohol.26 In his
attempt to offload responsibility for drug-related
crime, by blaming a judiciary professionally bound not to respond, this Chief has, however,
identified two pressing needs: ethics training for police executives, and subscriptions to
some medical research journals27 With the behaviour of drug warriors
substantially at odds with virtuous conduct, I fully expect my criticism of the status quo to bring
howls of outrage, from those
law enforcement traditionalists with related career interests. Such groups
taking the position of aggrieved parties and attempting to curtail healthy debate will be, quite
frankly, the best endorsement I could hope for. I'm proud of our era of problem-oriented and
community-based modernization, yet the drug war still forces too many of us to behave
in a contrary manner, which we would otherwise not condone. If public trust is the capital
upon which police service is built, then we cannot afford to squander it pursuing an
archaic interpretation of morality. Our professional integrity must once again remain
sacrosanct. Progressive legislation will not occur overnight, but the disastrous impact of
drug war on policing is the impetus for us to demand it.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised
over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
--John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"
The critical change that must occur is our acknowledgement that drugs rarely cause crime,
while money almost always causes crime. Before complaining about drug crime and the
associated health costs or tax burden,28
people should realize that these evils are the
offspring of prohibition,29 a disaster of
our own creation. Our unwillingness to recognize
reality is an embarrassment, prompting one distinguished police chief to lament, "it's the
money, stupid!"30 The CBC National
news recently featured Winnipeg police busting
biker-supported pot-growing operations, sandwiched between a report on a Vancouver
journalist threatened by bikers, and a feature story on the Hell's Angels31. Yet when asked
how to make progress against the drug profiteering that bankrolls this criminal
organization, a spokesperson admits that it's beyond control while predictably calling for
more funding32. This simply echoes the
policy of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police,33 who concede that trafficking
profits generate economic power for criminal
organizations, yet respond by urging the Government of Canada to provide "appropriate
resources," for more enforcement. By refusing to endorse a lawful drug supply which
would end this black market cash cow for criminals, I hope police of all ranks and
agencies realize that our intransigence allows the perception of "Support your local Hell's
Angel" stickers on our patrol cars. To force policing to admit that it cannot win this drug
war, voters and policymakers need to "just say no", to more of the public's money for
cops, guns, and jails. For public service addiction to the taxpayer's wallet, "cold turkey"
may be the only cure.
Once decriminalization finally receives it's overdue opportunity, marijuana is the obvious
place to start. By responsibly allowing limited access to the relatively harmless34 (and in
many cases, quite useful!) 35 cannabis
plant, we can redirect hundreds of millions of
taxpayer dollars to important social issues. A government regulated marijuana distribution
system would create employment, generate revenue to promote health and education, cut
off funding from organized crime, and finally provide police with a credible mandate for
enforcement against the few black marketeers who remained. Similar to alcohol and
nicotine, cannabis could be effectively controlled at the community level by regional
legislation and municipal bylaws. I'd be happy to see adults purchase marijuana from a
liquor store, or consume in a licensed establishment, enforcement responsibilities then
turning to legitimate public order issues such as supplying to minors and consuming in
public. Fearmongering notwithstanding, there is simply no downside to allowing controlled access
to this substance.
Regarding heroin and the opiates, the decriminalization trials in Switzerland have been
such an overwhelming success, by crime, economic, health and public approval standards36, that replication of the process must be
implemented in this
country, and none too soon. The British Columbia Chief Coroner's exhaustive analysis of illicit
injection drugs37 finds our Canadian
responses hopelessly inadequate, and in need of
a broad-based, multi-disciplinary approach. A large scale and carefully monitored medical trial
could at last provide lawmakers with an opportunity to rationally evaluate alternative
control mechanisms. When heroin finally receives the serious examination that it deserves,
other substances such as cocaine and chemical drugs might then be critically studied on
their own merits, rather than in the current climate of irrational fear. Which control
methodology would prove least harmful to society is, of course, open to informed
speculation. What we've spent billions of dollars and countless lives proving, however, is
that criminal prohibition isn't it.
Progress will not be easy, and there will be no shortage of naysayers lining up to promote
everything from legitimate concerns to "chicken-little" styled hysteria While people would
rightfully view this presentation as critical of certain policing practices, we must remember
that many groups have contributed to history's most expensive failed social experiment.
Whether it's counselors dependant upon government funding, politicians with career plans,
doctors with monopolistic treatment clinics or simply citizens blinded by propaganda and
faith, there's plenty of blame to go around, and the concurrent incentive to deny necessary
changes. Critical examination, however, invariably exposes the traditionalist's threadbare and
Concerns abound regarding U.S. political pressures,38 and there is
evidence of interference with other countries' domestic drug policies.39 We
might politely ask certain Americans to mind their own business, and point out their own,
much more dangerous pushers, who traffic nicotine death from the tobacco fields of
the Southeastern states, and export cheap weapons, "which are the industrial world's most
shameful product."40 Most Canadians
would be embarrassed to learn that our drug
laws were formed in an atmosphere of religious intolerance and racism;41 do we really
want to emulate our southern neighbours, whose similar laws are succeeding where
the armies of the Confederacy failed, by putting enormous numbers of black men behind
bars? I resent opinions that our government should use its police to intervene in people's
personal body choices, when those same voices invariably invoke the cause of freedom to
champion everyone's right to own a gun. Ending the drug war means it's time for
Canadian patriotism to mean something more than an excuse to argue over a flag on a
I have some hope that the threshold for change has been reached, since it appears that
mounting evidence is overwhelming even the most ardent drug warriors. When the World
Health Organization suppresses valuable research42 on specious grounds,43
unseemly rumblings of well-funded political lobbying%44, this is perhaps a last, desperate
attempt to conceal one of the shattered myths upon which drug war is founded. Promoting
censorship may be justifiable to people whose careers are imperiled by the truth, 45 yet
this is invariably both ineffectual and short-lived, with those responsible earning only
contempt from those upon whom they perpetrate the act. It is my fervent desire that
Canadian policing will choose the high road, placing integrity and public safety first, while
shedding our traditional role of defending established interests. Musashi wrote that, "the
warrior's way is the twofold way of pen and sword;" we've spent the Twentieth Century
proving that we can use one, and now it is time to pick up the other.
Perhaps the best wisdom of all comes from the minds of the pure and uninitiated, whose
thoughts are untainted by a lifetime of misinformation. Viewing a televised documentary
on injection drug use, including disturbing images of a man killed by his father, my nine-
year old son watched an interview with addicts who explained a myriad of disorders that
were ruining their lives. Not once did he ask his father the cop why these criminals were
not in jail. His advice to me was, "Dad, those people are sick." I hope someone other than I will
REFERENCES [Click the footnote number to return
to text position]
1 Giffen, P.J., Endicott, S., and
Lambert, S., Panic and Indifference:The
Canada's Drug Laws, (Ottawa: Canadian Center for Substance Abuse, 1991),
2 Keegan, J., A History of Warfare,
(Toronto: Vintage Books, 1994), 385.
3 Skolnick, J., Justice Without Trial, (New
York: John Wiley, 1966), 117.
4 Wilkins, R., "Biker Gangs-Getting Away
With Murder," Blue Line, 10(3)
5 Alexander, B., Peaceful Measures:
Canada's Way Out of the 'War on Drugs'
University of Toronto Press, 1990), 59-60; for an example see Shepard, Cst.
Daly, J. News Hour (BCTV, 98.03.13)
6 Trakalo, Sgt. R., from Roberts, D., "The
record crop a city isn't high
on," The Globe
and Mail, (Toronto: 98.03.11), A2, and, Rintoul, Cst. S., from Vincent, I.
challenge cannabis liberation movement," The Globe and Mail, (Toronto:
7 See Rintoul, Cst. S., RCMP, News Hour
8 Hall, W., Room, R., and Bondry, S., A
Comparative Appraisal of the Health
Psychological Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine and Opiate Use,
pending in William Corrigall et al., eds. , Marijuana and Health (Toronto:
Research Foundation, 1998).
9 Vicchio, S., "Ethics and Police Integrity,"
Keynote Address to the
on Police Integrity, The Law Enforcement Bulletin, (Federal Bureau of
11 Giffen, et al, 127-134, and Beatty, J.,
and Kines, L., "Dosanjh vows
action to combat
biker gangs," The Vancouver Sun, (98.03.12), B1.
12 "The Clipboard", Blue Line, Vol. 10,
No. 3, (March 1998), 32.
13 Keegan, 384.
15 Knightly, P. The First Casualty: From
Crimea to Vietnam: The War
Hero, Propagandist, and Mythmaker, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich,
16 Casey, V., from Rutherford, R., "A
Healthy Fix", The Magazine, (CBC,
17 Glass, S., "Don't You D.A.R.E.," The
New Republic, (97.03.03)
18 Wysong, E. and Aniskiewicz, R.,
"Truth and DARE: Tracking Drug Education to
Graduation and as Symbolic Politics," Social Problems Vol. 41 No. 3,
Cauchon, D., "D.A.R.E. doesn't work - studies find drug program not
TODAY, 93.10.11; "How Effective is DARE?", American Journal of Public Health,
September 1994, 1399.
19 Drug Control: Observations on
Elements of the Federal Drug Control
GAO/GGD-97-42, B-275944, (Washington, D.C: United States General Accounting
20 "Students take anti-drug course," The
Vancouver Sun, 98.04.09, B3.
22 Rutherford, R., "A Healthy Fix", The
Magazine, (CBC, 98.03.03)
24 Oppal, Hon. Mr. Justice W.T., Closing
the Gap: Policing and The Community,
(Victoria: Policing in British Columbia/Commission of Inquiry): pp. I-6 - I-8.
25 Young, Chief Cst. P., quoted in Lee,
J., "Police chief criticizes
judicial system," The
Vancouver Sun, 98.02.20, B1.
26 Hall, W., et al.
27 See "Deglamorising cannabis",
Editorial, The Lancet Vol. 346, No. 8985,
and Smith, R. "The war on drugs: Prohibition isn't working - some
legalisation will help,"
British Medical Journal Vol. 311, (December 1995) 23-30.
28 Conservatively estimated to total
$1.37 billion for the year 1992 in:
Single, E. et al,
The Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada, (Ottawa: CCSA, 1995).
29 Friedman, M., "The Drug War as a
Socialist Enterprise," Keynote Address, (
Washington, D.C: Fifth International Conference on Drug Policy Reform,
30 McNamara, J., from, "The War on
Drugs is Lost", The National Review,
31 McAuliffe, M., "Hell's Angels," The
National, (CBC, 98.03.04), and
"Bust," The National, (CBC, 98.03.04), and "Dangerous Offenders," The
32 Dalstrom, Cst. A., from Kines, L.,
"Hell's Angels, Police Try to Use
Media For Own
Ends," The Vancouver Sun, (98.03.10), A1.
33 Canada's Drug Strategy, (CACP,
34 Morgan, J., and Zimmer, L., Marijuana
Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review
Scientific Evidence, (New York: Lindesmith Center, 1997) pp. 6-16.
35 Ibid, pp. 16-25.
36 Uchtenhagen, A. "Summary of the
Synthesis Report," in Uchtenhagen, A.,
F., and Dobler-Mikola, A., (Eds.), Programme for a Medical Prescription of
Final Report of the Research Representatives (Zurich: Institute for Social
Medicine at the University of Zurich, 1997).
37 Cain, V., Illicit Narcotic Overdose
Deaths in British Columbia,
(Burnaby: Office of the
Chief Coroner, 1994)
38 Vincent, I. "Enforcers challenge
cannabis liberation movement," The
Globe and Mail,
39 Marr, D., and Lagan, B., "The Real
Drug War: Why the US Won't Let Australia
Reform Its Drug Laws", The Sydney Morning Herald, (Australia: 97.07.19).
40 Keegan, 384.
41 Giffen. et al, 45-97, 150-154.
42 Hall, W., et al.
43 Cannabis: a health perspective and
research agenda, (Geneva: World Health
Organization, 1997), 29.
44 Abraham, C., "Marijuana flap gets pot
boiling at WHO," The Globe and Mail,
(Toronto: 98.03.03), and "Marijuana Special Report: High Anxieties," New
45 International Narcotic Control Board,
Annual Report, (United Nations,
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Constable Gil Puder in the News
Wed, 22 Apr 1998
Calgary Herald (Canada)
DECRIMINALIZE STREET DRUGS, SPEAKERS URGE
VANCOUVER (CP) - Decriminalizing street drugs is the only way to address
drug epidemics, a city police officer and many other speakers told a
Present drug laws are making drug dealers rich and leaving addicts to die
on the streets, speakers told the Fraser Institute forum, Sensible
Solutions to the Urban Drug Problem.
Decriminalizing some or all drugs for medicinal or recreational use would
help addicts and free up police to chase dealers, who are the real
criminals, said speakers at the one-day meeting.
Const. Gil Puder, a 16-year member of the Vancouver police force, felt so
strongly about the topic he ignored a written order from police chief Bruce
Chambers that he not to appear unless he changed the material in his
Puder said decided to go ahead with the speech because he didn't want to
compromise his beliefs, but erased "Vancouver police department" from his
name tag to emphasize his views were his own and not those of his employer.
Chambers said he was disappointed with Puder but refused to discuss
publicly any disciplinary actions the constable could be facing.
22 Apr 1998
DEFIANT COP SAYS CALL OFF WAR ON DRUGS
Constable Speaks Out Despite Risk Of Disciplinary Action
Holly Horwood, Staff Reporter The Province An outspoken Vancouver police
constable has defied efforts by police Chief Bruce Chambers to muzzle him
on drug decriminalization.
Const. Gil Puder, a 16-year police veteran who fatally shot a drug-addicted
bank robber in 1984, risks disciplinary action after he presented a paper
on drug-policy reform at a Vancouver conference yesterday.
"He was told verbally and in writing not to present the paper," Chambers
told The Province.
"He doesn't represent the police department, and his paper, in my opinion,
doesn't represent the views of the police department."
Puder, an instructor at the B.C. Police Academy and Justice Institute of
B.C., has spoken out before. But his speech to 140 delegates at the forum,
organized by the Fraser Institute think-tank, was the hardest-hitting yet.
Called Recovering Our Honor: Why Policing Must Reject the "War on Drugs,"
the paper is critical of what Puder calls "warrior-savior" officers and an
"entrenched police culture."
"Research long ago identified aggressive enforcement and a game-like
atmosphere as features of drug policing, which make it an attractive field
of endeavor," said Puder, who told reporters he spoke as an individual.
"What better way to build your image than with a 'bad guy' in jail and drug
exhibits or some recovered property as your visible evidence of success?
"Although we relish the prestige of this role, deified police officers
confronting demonized drug users is a recipe for abuse."
In his speech -- which was taped by a Vancouver police inspector -Puder
called drug-prohibition laws "history's most expensive failed social
It's time to legalize marijuana and replicate Switzerland's
decriminalization trials for heroin and other opiates, he said, echoing
other speakers at the conference.
"Which control methodology would prove least harmful to society is, of
course, open to informed speculation. What we've spent billions of dollars
and countless lives proving, however, is that criminal prohibition isn't
"I am concerned about the accuracy and appropriateness of the speech, that
it didn't meet the standards of the police department," Chambers said,
declining to elaborate.
Former deputy police chief Ken Higgins, when he was still with Vancouver
police last year, also called for decriminalization of narcotics possession.
Some police drug experts use "smear tactics and conjecture" in anti-drug
speeches to school children, Puder said.
Police are supporting "the black market cash cow for criminals" by not
endorsing a lawful drug supply, he said.
The first change in the system should be the legalization of marijuana and
the decriminalization of heroin and opiates for medicinal purposes, Puder
"Cocaine and chemical drugs might then be critically studied on their own
merits," he said.
Puder called for a controlled drug supply accompanied by health, education
and economic programs.
A lawyer with the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy said his Ottawa-based
group supports making it legal for adults to use and share small quantities
of any drug, to cultivate marijuana, and to use heroin for medicinal
Prohibition has not stopped the use of drugs in modern societies such as
Vancouver, which has the highest rate of HIV-infection among intravenous
drug users in the Western world, said Eugene Oscapella.
Pubdate: Wed, 22 Apr 1998
Vancouver Province (Canada)
To the Editor
Thank you and thanks to Province Staff Reporter Holly Horwood for your
brief but illuminating report on Constable Gil Puder.
Reflecting on the picture you provided of two veteran police officers, one
of whom threatens to fire the other if he tells the truth, I thought, Gil
Puder is right. Truth is the first casualty in the "war on drugs".
And I thought of the latest news from the US where the unholy trinity of
Clinton, McCaffrey, and Shalala decided against lifting the ban on any form
of federal funding of Needle Exchange Programs(NEPs).
Commenting on the decision, one NEP field worker said, "They need to face
reality firsthand and see the difference it makes."
When one considers that politicians like these can play politics with
innocent people's lives - for all infants must be considered innocent - the
immorality of their position is exposed for all the world to see.
Their mentality is that of Vancouver Police Chief Chambers and his drug
warrior colleagues. Never mind the evidence! Don't expect me to do or say
anything, no matter how true or compassionate or humanitarian, if it could
be seen as weakening my position. (And that goes for all those who work for
With that attitiude motivating the Chief, it would be a trifle naive to
expect anything better from those who serve under him.
Police Constable Puder is obviously a person of great moral courage and
integrity. Despite knowing that he will be seen as a "whistle blower" by
his closed shop "police club" colleagues, he has had the courage to speak
out at the public level.
I take my hat off to him. He should be promoted to a position more in
keeping with his sterling qualities, perhaps i/c the Ethics, Education and
Public Liaison Branch.
Oh, they don't have one? Well, Education, then. Perhaps after he's been
there a while he will find a way to introduce his colleagues to the notion
of "the Ethical Imperative".