Drugs and our youth: the never-ending story

by Stephen Patrick

As every parent of a teenager inHaliburtonCountyknows, illegal drugs — soft, hard, and the legally prescribed variety — are available almost as readily as a case of 24 is at the local beer store. Except that the drug dealers don’t bother to check ID.

Stephen Patrick. Editor

There are very strong cases to be made for the legalization of pot; Bram Lebo made one eloquently in these pages last fall. This month the federal Liberals passed a resolution at their national convention supporting the complete legalization of marijuana by a convincing 77 percent of the delegates.

The resolution was brought forward by the youth wing, but clearly commanded support from every demographic. Now, convention resolutions are scarcely binding, particularly for a former natural governing party now mired dismally in third place nationally. When the NDP were in that position they regularly passed resolutions that were rooted deeply in fantasy-land; ditto the Progressive Conservatives during their long days and nights and decades in the political wilderness.

But still, the Liberals without question have succeeded in bringing the debate back into sharp public focus. And that is particularly good news for a society where drug-related crimes of violence are only too tragically familiar.

Our community is no stranger to this. Over the last few years, we’ve lost a number of the very young to brutality, to overdoses, to suicide. The toll on family and friends, the innocent and the compromised, is incalculable. But seldom, if ever, are the major players brought to justice. The small fry, particularly in crimes of violence, pay the price occasionally, and are of course replaced promptly. The big boys sit back in the GTA, raking in the dough.

Once in a while, they too pay the price – usually at the hands of their associates, or rivals. But no serious person has any suspicion that the trade itself is in the slightest vulnerable, or believes that our police forces have any serious handle on it. The sheer size of the illegal drug industry makes their task a finger-in-the-dyke business at best.

Thousands of acres of our county are regularly under cultivation; if seized, growers simply move on. And what percentage of county homes across Haliburton might have a weed or two growing somewhere on the back 40?

I live inHaliburtonVillage, just 10 minutes fromHighland Street. Scarcely a day passes when I don’t see one, two, or more young people, often of school age, walking aimlessly about town, eyes downcast, body language an image of defeat. They huddle together like the dispossessed the world over, in anonymous corners and corridors for warmth and companionship. Their sad vulnerability is, perhaps, a silent cry for help, or at least recognition.

The kids I describe are of course no more victims of the drug dealers than are the middle class kids occupied every day at school, and on the playing fields. They simply illustrate – in the extreme – how difficult the course of adolescence can be. Adults in theory can make adult choices. If a 35 year old wants to toke up, does anyone really care?

Teenagers are different. They need protection on their journey. But does anyone really believe that criminalizing pot provides them with that protection? It merely adds to the dangers their vulnerability invites.

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