The second article by Dr. Gerald Thomas of the John Howard Society of Canada comparatively analyzes several possible explanations for why the Canada federal government has found it so hard to implement a more balanced approach to drug control in the three decades since the Le Dain Commission’s inquiry. Six possible explanations are considered including: (1) bureaucratic imperatives, (2) exportation of the U.S. “war on drugs,” (3) “tough on crime” political posturing, (4) hidden agendas, (5) distributive politics, and (6) social judgments/social control. In order to assess the relative contribution of each of these factors in maintaining the enforcement-dominated approach to drug control in Canada, the author first surveys the opinions of leading experts on Canadian drug policy, and then analyzes the historical and contemporary record of drug control policymaking. The article ends by suggesting that in order for meaningful reforms to occur, the government must provide strong leadership to confront prohibitionist influences from the United States and from the well-positioned “bureaucratic enforcement complex” in Canada.

In an article entitled “War If Necessary But Not Necessarily War,” Barbara Macrae from the John Howard Society of Ontario takes an in-depth look at what she sees as significant differences between the U.S. and Canadian approaches to illicit drug control. Focusing on the period since 1987, when Canadian and American policies began to diverge, she suggests that differences between U.S. and Canadian cultures have led the U.S. to intensify the drug war, while Canada has actually moved toward a less extreme approach to drug control. The article further suggests that the conservative right in the United States has used the war on drugs as a proxy to promote “hidden agendas” related to race and social control. She concludes by observing that since conservatives in the U.S. have used the “individual rights and responsibility” argument to justify and promote tough anti-drug laws and expand federal police powers, those pressing for drug policy reform in Canada should consider the potential pitfalls of using the individual rights argument to promote drug reform in Canada. She suggests a less risky strategy would be to anchor further drug reform to the need to reach out to groups in society that are disadvantaged and have been marginalized by the mainstream.

The fourth article, “Substance Abuse and Crime: An Analysis of the Relationship and Its Impact on Canadian Drug Policy,” by Dana Brothers from the John Howard Society of Newfoundland focuses on what she calls the “untested assumption” that illicit drug use causes crime. She suggests that, contrary to the findings of research that have demonstrated a “complex and recursive” relationship between drugs and crime, some drug control and corrections policies in Canada appear to accept the simplistic view that drugs are causal to crime. Although research has repeatedly shown a strong correlation between illicit drugs and crime, Ms. Brothers suggests that it is in alcohol that we find the strongest pharmacological link to crime and violence, and that prohibitionist drug laws probably play a significant role in generating and perpetuating the link between illicit drugs and crime. The author ends her analysis by providing suggestions that could move Canadian drug and corrections policy in a direction that is based on evidence rather than on unconfirmed assumptions regarding the relationship between drugs and crime.

The fifth article by Greg Smith from the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland (BC) is entitled “An Analysis of Correctional Services of Canada’s Urinalysis Program.” The overall goal of this article is to demonstrate that the potential harms caused by cannabis use are of less a concern than the potential harms created by CSC’s urinalysis monitoring program. The article begins by providing an overview CSC’s urinalysis program. It then examines current drug use trends of federal prisoners emphasizing the limitations of using random urinalysis testing to assess trends in institutional drug use. Next, it comparatively assesses the potential harms associated with CSC’s urinalysis program, including the possibility that some federally sentenced prisoners may be switching from soft drugs like cannabis to ‘hard’ drugs like heroin to escape detection by urinalysis, with potential harms that may be associated with cannabis use. The article ends with some conclusions based on the findings of this analysis related to the need for further research