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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 136206 Find in a Library
Title: Narcotics: A Case Study in Criminal Law Creation (From Criminology: A Reader's Guide, P 177-195, 1991, Jane Gladstone, Richard Ericson, et al, eds. -- See NCJ 136200)
Author(s): C N Mitchell
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 19
Sponsoring Agency: University of Toronto
Toronto, Canada
Sale Source: University of Toronto
Centre of Criminology
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: This essay challenges the factual basis for the assumptions that underlie Canada's drug laws.
Abstract: There are four assumptions that are implied in the coverage and penalty structure of the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drug Act, the two major Federal statutes that criminalize the sale and possession of drugs. One assumption is that some drugs (cannabis, cocaine, heroin) are extremely dangerous and crime-causing because of their inherent chemical properties; whereas, other drugs (alcohol, tobacco, coffee) are much less dangerous or not dangerous at all. The second assumption is that the Opium Act of 1908, the Opium and Narcotic Control Act of 1920, and the two modern statutes were enacted in response to these inherent chemical dangers. A third assumption is that the drug-control authority of law enforcement agents and physicians promotes public safety by ensuring that legally available drugs are safe and effective and are being used wisely. The fourth assumption is that Canada's drug statutes reflect public concern and voter demand expressed through free and democratic elections. This essay draws upon scientific evidence to show that these assumptions are false. This essay proposes that a constitutional rule be passed that will compel legislators to demonstrate with reliable evidence the necessity of any new criminal offense. Legislators should have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a proposed law is based on factually accurate premises. 56-item annotated reading list
Main Term(s): Drug laws
Index Term(s): Canada; Criminalization; Jurisprudence; Political influences
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