Global Marijuana March
End the prison state. Cures not wars. Free Marc Emery. Stop all cannabis arrests.
Saturday (May 6), Queens Park north, 11 am to 8 pm. Get the straight dope at cannabisweek.ca.
While potheads and hempsters converge at Queen's Park north on Saturday (May 6) for the Global Marijuana March, undercover narcs from around the globe will be gearing up for a closed-door huddle in Montreal. Called the International Drug Enforcement Conference and co-hosted by the RCMP and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the meet opens May 8 at the Hilton Bonaventure.
Why Montreal? you might ask. In the 23 years the org's been meeting to coordinate the planetary dope siege, most of the host cities have been Latin American high-density crime zones. These include Panama City during Manuel Noriega's heyday; Cartagena, Colombia, when the Medallin cartel was going full bore; and world crime capital Washington, DC.
Does our cosmopolitan city on the St. Lawrence suddenly rank as a global class-A dope and delinquent metropolis? DEA spokesperson Garrison Courtney waves off such reasoning. It's just geography. "Montreal's more a question of accessibility than anything else,' he says, pointing out that the IDEC took place in Canada once before. "Ottawa, I think, but I'm not sure when.'
Actually, probably not. A check of the DEA site (www.dea.gov/programs/idec.htm), good for additional rhetoric and negligible information, reveals that Canada has never before been an IDEC venue.
The paranoid could easily imagine that this comfy co-sponsorship signals the deepening of the bond between our Mounties and the U.S. feds. RCMP reps deny there's anything new or startling here.
"The RCMP has always had a close relationship with the DEA and other world partners," says Mountie spokesperson Sergeant Martin Blais. "At the close of last year's conference [in Santiago, Chile], the Canadian delegate stepped up to the plate and asked to host the event this year.'
Indeed. The DEA's Courtney puts it this way: "Canada's in charge this year.' And though the complete agenda is under cloak of darkness, one of the keynotes listed for the media, called Global Drug Threat, is being given by RCMP Superintendent Derek Ogden.
But the day the IDEC opens, another clutch of drug experts will be converging at the Hotel Marriott down the street. This meet has open arms and open doors. It's a counter-symposium sponsored by a coalition of anti-prohibitionists, including Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and the University of Ottawa's criminology department, and it's titled Can We Talk?
It offers a who's who of drug scholars, activists and former cops, all on a quixotic quest to "open a dialogue with the DEA' and offer alternatives to prohibition. The general public is cordially invited, but DEA delegates are especially welcome, on the off-chance they might learn something.
"Current drug policies diminish everyone,' says retired BC Provincial Court judge and symposium speaker Jerry Paradis, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). The thousand-plus drug cases he heard in his 28 years on the bench back him up.
"It diminishes judges by requiring them to shut their minds off from the irrationality of what they're required to do,' he says. "It diminishes lawyers on both sides - the prosecutors by forcing them to pursue people and issues that they know full well belong in the field of health care, and defence counsel by forcing them to play silly Charter of Rights games instead of dealing with real issues. And it diminishes the police by forcing them to see drug users as prey, not worthy of serious second thought.'
Also present will be Lionel Prévost, whose opposition to the current drug laws stems from his 25 years with the Sûreté du Québec. Today he teaches criminology at the Université de Montréal and is an ardent - and eloquent - anti-prohibitionist.
According to symposium coordinator Marc Boris St. Maurice of NORML-Canada, 'This is the first time retired judges and police officers have followed [the IDEC] to speak out against the insane drug wars.'
We can only hope for a little sharing before drug warriors adjourn and return to business as usual.