Drug Policy Alliance Honors Three Canadian

Press Release October 30, 2003
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (510) 812-3126 or Shayna Samuels at (646) 523-6961

Three Canadian politicians who have worked courageously to promote and implement more sensible drug policies in Canada will be honored at the Drug Policy Alliance 2003 Biennial Conference, to take place Nov. 5-8 in Meadowlands, New Jersey.

“Thanks to the courage of people like Mayors Owen and Campbell and Senator Nolin, Canada is increasingly breaking with Washington’s drug war and following the western European model of pragmatic and humane reform,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We need more leaders like them in the U.S.”

Below are brief biographies of the three recipients of the Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy.

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin – Senator Pierre Claude Nolin of Montreal has been one of Canada’s most outspoken and well-respected advocates for drug policy reform in the last decade. Senator Nolin chaired the Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, which in 2002 issued a comprehensive report calling for the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada. The report also called for the erasure of all criminal records of those previously convicted of cannabis possession. “Of the many fine cannabis policy reports produced by parliamentary commissions around the world over the past 30 years, Senator Nolin’s ranks as the best,” said Ethan Nadelmann. “It’s the most substantive, the most informative and the most valuable.” A long-time advocate of public health approaches to drug use, Senator Nolin has spoken frequently about the harms caused by prohibition and the need for drug policy grounded firmly in scientific evidence.

Philip Owen – Former Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen (1993-2002) was instrumental in establishing the city’s innovative “four pillar” approach to drug use that integrates prevention, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction. He was a pioneer in transforming Vancouver into an outpost of European pragmatism in dealing with difficult urban drug problems. Owen’s harm reduction goals included combating fatal drug overdoses, reducing the public nuisance caused by public drug use, and stemming increasingly high rates of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis due to injection drug use. “Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke was the first big city mayor in North America to speak out on the need for major drug policy reform,” said Ethan Nadelmann. “Then Philip Owen broke new ground by becoming the first to effect such far-reaching reform, with his undaunted advocacy of safer injection sites and other key harm reduction programs.” When Owen was ousted from his own political party in 2002 explicitly for such advocacy, he donated the $140,000 raised at his farewell bash to help pay for a documentary, Fix: The Story of an Addicted City, about the political struggle in Vancouver over establishing such facilities.

Mayor Larry Campbell – Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell has the distinct honor of being the first politician in North America ever elected on a harm reduction platform, entering the race with a promise to help Vancouver’s drug users. While serving as British Columbia’s Chief Coroner in the late 1990s, Campbell had seen overdose deaths in the province skyrocket to as high as 400 per year. His common-sense approach to tough problems, including his plan to open safer injection sites to reduce overdose fatalities, public nuisance and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis among injection drug users, struck a chord with Vancouver voters and helped lead to a landslide victory at the polls. A former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drug Squad, Mayor Campbell fulfilled his promise and opened the first supervised injection site in North America in September of this year, a landmark victory for drug policy reform advocates across the continent.

Canada is now the clear leader in North America on issues ranging from medical marijuana to preventing HIV/AIDS among injection drug users. Canadians suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses have had legal access to medical marijuana since 1999, and this summer the Canadian government began providing medical marijuana to those with a doctor’s recommendation. In September, North America’s first government-sponsored safe consumption site for users of heroin and other drugs opened in Vancouver. Canada’s parliament is now considering decriminalizing marijuana, and heroin prescription trials are expected to start shortly in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

This is the first year any Canadian has won the prestigious Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform. The three recipients follow in the footsteps of past winners former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, former Prosecutor General of Bogot

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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