With all the similarities between the Canada and the US, one would assume that they share pretty similar drug policies. But, with a progressive party leading Canada and a conservative overload in the 50 states, the differences have never been so gaping. So how do the two federal governments opinions on drug policy and cannabis differ?
USA: The land of incarceration
It’s no secret that the Trump administration didn’t exactly have a solution for the drug epidemic in North America, be it legal or illegal drugs. And his Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to want to revert back to the old school method of enforcement.
Under the new law-and-order administration of President Donald Trump and Sessions, the era of harsh penalties for potentially small-time drug offenders appears to be coming back.
Experts on criminal sentencing and prison policy claim that the Sessions strategy is a flashback to the tough-on-drugs approach which was popular during the Richard Nixon tenure, but began falling out of favor in the 90’s. Daniel Medwed, Professor of Law and criminal justice at Northeastern University said,
The Trump administration’s approach represents a return to the Stone Age of criminal justice policy. It’s like we haven’t moved on. It’s all reflecting comments made 30 years ago.
With many of the States taking more progressive strategies in dealing with the drug problem, the path to change is near. But, with a federal government seeping in the policies of the 1980’s, a substantial shift will require the will of the American people.
Canada: So close, yet so far
If you ask Canadian’s about how their drug laws compare to their southerly neighbor, many will agree that they are much more relaxed and fair. But in reality, many experts are saying that Canada is simply engaging in a lite version of the war on drugs.
Although Trudeau government is stepping in the right direction with legalizing recreational cannabis in 2018, it still has systemic problems on it’s approach to illicit drug policy. The Canadian system still believes the drug epidemic to be a criminal matter, instead of a public health issue.
Many progressives often use Portugal as an example of how a drug problem should be handled. Since they legalized all drugs back in 2001, teen drug use, drug overdoses and deaths, and criminal penalties dropped by 60 per cent.
Justin Trudeau has made it clear that he would never go that far, and it’s likely the Conservative Party of Canada would attempt something so drastic.
So, although Canada has made small steps on the path to making it a public health issue like the safe injection sites in Vancouver, the war on drugs is alive and well.