"Organized crime lobbies political representatives to maintain the status quo."
Tony Smith joined the Vancouver Police in 1973. He was aware that a year earlier the Le Dain committee recommended to Parliament that marijuana be legalized and then-Prime Minister Trudeau let the police know that he supported the recommendation; but Tony felt that the number of marijuana arrests did not reflect Trudeau's thinking. "I have no doubt," he says, "and indeed it was probably a consensus amongst many officers, that the only reason for many of the arrests were personal, such as the overtime pay for court appearances, which could exceed regular wages." He also witnessed that officers who concentrated only on drug issues created problems, as they were simply not available for the multitude of other issues needing their attention. He was soon assigned to the Car 86 program, in which officers collaborated with social workers to aid families in need of intervention. Here he noted that the one factor wherever violence or extreme hostile behavior was displayed was not illegal drugs, but alcohol.
Another of Tony's assignments was the Pawnshop Squad, where he noticed that in most pawnshops at least 90% of the goods were stolen - most by addicts who would quickly take their money to drug dealers waiting just outside the doors. "Hence, a $200 dollar a day habit cost the public at least $2,000 in thefts." But as an investigating officer in numerous drug-overdose deaths, Tony witnessed a price far greater. "Having always been cast as criminals by society," he observes, "they never had a chance to escape. I'm sure their drug suppliers had no motivation to get them help as their addiction progressed. But maybe if the drugs had been medically prescribed, counseling would have been available."
Based on his 28 years of service, Tony's greatest concern is the enormous amount of money pouring into criminal organizations via prohibitionism. "It would be interesting to track the millions of dollars contributed to political campaigns from these sources," he says. Additionally, Tony has had the opportunity to travel the world extensively, giving him a chance to appreciate the global impact of our drug policies. "The approach of the DEA in Central and South America is turning those regions strongly against the US," he relates. "Just look at the recent elections in Bolivia and US relations with Venezuela. Mexico is in an even worse state. The government has no control, while drugs pay the bills for so many. And who fuels the market? The addicts in Canada and the US." These fruits of the "War on Drugs" are what prompted Tony to join LEAP.