Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah’s Op-Ed on repairing the harms of Cannabis Prohibition

Akwasi Owusu-BempahProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently authored an op-ed in the Toronto Star discussing the need to correct the damage done by Canada’s “war on drugs.” Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. His research focuses on people of the African diaspora and policing in Canada.

The full op-ed is available on the Toronto Star website. We have provided an excerpt here:

Let’s repair the harms of Canada’s war on drugs

As we progress toward the legalization of pot, we must ensure that we work to repair the harms done to those most affected by almost a century of prohibition

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah
Mon., July 10, 2017

The legalization of cannabis is a move forward for our country and sends a positive message to the rest of the world about a changing tide in the global war on drugs.

However, as we progress toward legalization, we must ensure that we work to repair the harms done to those most affected by almost a century of prohibition.

Justin Trudeau rose to power based, in part, on a promise to legalize cannabis after having publicly admitted to smoking weed while sitting as a Member of Parliament. Trudeau is certainly not alone in his fondness the drug. Survey data reveal that 11 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older have used it in the past year and over one-third admit to having done so at least once in their lifetime.

These high rates of use are, no doubt, part of the reason we are moving toward legalization. Another important factor is a recognition of the costs associated with criminalizing the drug – from law enforcement expenditures that could be better spent elsewhere to the harms inflicted on individuals who receive criminal records for minor possession.

Although perhaps not as well publicized as in the United States, Canada has been waging its own war on drugs for several decades. Over the past 15 years, for example, Canadian police agencies reported more than 800,000 cannabis possession “incidents” to Statistics Canada.

Importantly, as a series of stories in the Star has shown, despite similar rates of use across racial groups, racialized Canadians have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. In Toronto it is Black and Brown people who have been disproportionately criminalized, contributing further to the social marginalization they already experience…

Read the full article.