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Ex-cop An Advocate For Drug Law Reform


420 Staff
Prohibition Simply Not Working, Speaker Tells Conference At UVic. A retired career cop speaking in favour of the legalization of drugs? You've got to be kidding.

But Hunter McDonald, 63, is dead serious about his stance, so much so that he gave a speech at the eighth annual cannabis convention at UVic yesterday.

"It's my first talk so I'm really quite nervous," said McDonald outside the David Lam Auditorium before taking the podium.

"I'm not an advocate of drug use, but to promote legalization," McDonald said.

A young man sitting on a bench nearby rolled a joint. The smell of marijuana hung in the air.

McDonald is not a drug user himself, and says he never has been: "My drug of choice is a single-malt scotch," McDonald joked.

McDonald started his policing career in 1965 in St. Boniface, Man. In 1969, he transferred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and worked throughout Canada before retiring in 1992.

Then McDonald became director of security at the University of Victoria for a decade, and that's where he met marijuana activist Ted Smith. Now it was Smith's turn to ask for McDonald's co-operation in speaking to the gathering, a request McDonald was happy to grant.

Smith was delighted to have McDonald step forward. "This is one of the greatest signs I've seen that the truth is starting to come out about this plant [marijuana]."

Smith said it was "personally rewarding" to have a former adversary join him in the fight to legalize marijuana. "Legalization is the only real goal, especially for medical users," said Smith.

The silver-haired former policeman showed up wearing a white T-shirt with the words, "Cops say legalize drugs -- Ask me why," emblazoned on the back.

McDonald has found similar minds in the group LEAP, which stands for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It's an international association, founded in 2002, of current and former members of law enforcement who believe existing drug policies have failed to address problems of crime, drug abuse, addiction and the illegal drug trade.

"Several retired police officers think I'm wrong, but others privately agree ( the drug laws ) are wrong," said McDonald.

The drug laws are funneling millions of dollars toward organized crime, he said. He compares "the war on drugs" to mob boss Al Capone getting rich from selling alcohol during Prohibition.

LEAP advocates the legalization of all drugs "and taking money from enforcement, jails and courts and putting it into treatment," McDonald said.

There's already a growing leniency toward petty drug crimes, he added.

"Young, modern cops are a lot more lenient than perhaps those of my generation," said McDonald.

He's speaking out as a way of contributing to society and isn't worried if people have different opinions than his.

"I've always tended to be before my time and concerned about the vulnerable people of society."

The issue of impairment is different than the legalization of drug use, he said. "Alcohol is legal but it's illegal to drink and drive." Impairment by drugs should be penalized under the law as alcohol is, McDonald said.

The government could cut down on deaths by regulating heroin so it's available at a consistent quality and a reasonable price. Getting addicts off the street will require a multi-pronged plan involving drug and mental-health treatment and low-cost housing, he said.

Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Contact: letters@tc.canwest.com
Website: http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/
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