Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RE: Guns & Drugs

With New Brunswick's austerity budget looming, I'm using my corner of the internet to state the economic case for the legalization of recreational drug use. To be clear, I am not talking about marijuana; I wholeheartedly support the legalization of marijuana, but under a regulatory regime similar to cigarettes or alcohol. Addressing the reality that many other drugs are consumed, I assert that narcotics acquisition licencing is a safer and more-profitable drug strategy than criminalization.

I challenge Canadian policy makers to think about drugs the way they think about guns. The potential for harm of personal firearm ownership is inherently higher than that of recreational drug use, but guns are legally and responsibly acquired by almost 2 million people in Canada. Canadian firearms licensing requires that all permit holders must successfully complete safety training and testing. There are further stricter licences for those selling firearms. If we would regulate the the drug trade like firearms, we'd generate much needed public revenue from corporate taxes and licensing fees. Further, the legalization of recreational drug use would dramatically reduce prison enrollment and policing costs, specifically dealing a blow to organized crime.

Narcotics acquisition licenses could solve many problems at once. Prior to thinking about acquisition licensing as a policy tool, I was very supportive of Portugal's decriminalization model. I think many aspects of their model are excellent, but I had a lingering concern about who is looking out for the drug users' well-being. Decriminalization perpetuates some of the stigma of drug use by refusing to consider the supply of consumed drugs. There are no checks on the content and quality of street drugs, putting drug users at unnecessary risk.

I do not believe in punishing people who use drugs recreationally and cause no harm; drug use isn't an inherent evil in an otherwise healthy society. In policy, we've accepted that owning a gun doesn't make you a bad person. We have a framework to manage that risk, but recreational drug use is still rejected as a normal part of life, when we needn't look further than coffee and alcohol to see that the chemical modification of bodily experience is practiced widely.

Legal drugs can be produced in inspected privately operated facilities under the governance of public experts responsible for enacting regulations for the safe production and labeling of products available for sale only to licensed customers. Experts would also design a mandatory drug safety training and test for license applicants. This policy approach would move much, but admittedly not all, of the drug trade into the legitimate economy.

A new drug regime needs to prioritize public safety, and here's where I think Portugal does well. Having drugs in your body is not a crime, unless you're unruly or naked, but having drugs in your possession is. In Portugal, individuals found in possession of small quantities of drugs are summoned before a commission of a a social worker, a psychiatrist, and an attorney. The commission determines if a sanction or medical intervention into cases of addiction are required.

Valuing safety over punishment, I'd advocate that those guilty of possession without a license should for any first offence be subjected to addiction assessment and drug re-education. The Portuguese commission model would be an effective body to adjudicate successive infractions where punishment or required treatment would be considered. Meanwhile, the illegal distribution of drugs would remain a serious offence and priority for police forces, just as police concern themselves presently with the illegitimate trade of firearms.

Drugs are fact of life. Ideologically fighting the war on drugs is an expensive failure we can't afford to drag on. If we can function as nation that manages the risk of personal firearm ownership, there is no reason we can't profitably manage the risk of recreational drug use. We can grow our economy and safe-guard our citizens by legitimating the drug trade.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Talking Gender Pluralism for #IWD2015.

Happy International Women's Day!! And Happy Birthday to my step-aunt, Kim!

IWD is a microcosm of tension and heterogeneity within diverse feminist communities and thought. While I identify with (post)colonial and post-structural anti-essentialism, I don't think the day should be cancelled by any means. There is, however, a rigorous task of intersectional deconstruction that foregrounds ethical feminist organizing of IWD affairs.

IWD is actually a great opportunity for community, conversation, and critical thinking. IWD is a platform for a broad audience to think and share about social practices of sexism and gender policing as axes of women's oppression. This type of sharing and learning is a meaningful departure from the ideas of 'global sisterhood' and 'universal womanhood' that erase diversity and colonial history.

This IWD, consider how rigid determinate outcomes are assumed of bodies based on their appearances.

Sex is the biological categorization of populations based on physiological characteristics and reproductive observations. Sex is articulated as male/female bodies and increasingly as male/female/and intersex bodies. Hard divisions in sex categories are oversimplified and unrepresentative of fact. Human bodies exist on a spectrum from male to female, with an infinite number of intersex possibilities in between. Intersex bodies are both born and crafted in present day. Sex reassignment surgeries move bodies down the spectrum toward the opposite pole but cannot biologically reach it. Sex markers are genetic as well as anatomic.

Sex and gender have a co-constitutive relationship. While sex serves to categorize bodies, gender is a social idea that prescripts stereotypical behavior to bodies by category. Necessarily, the criteria that divided the sexual categories was formed from gendered expectations of bodies. Similarly, sexism and gender-policing share this co-constitutive character.

Gender policing occurs when a person (falsely) assumes authority to censor or correct the behavior of another person because of that other person's failure to meet gendered expectations. People of all genders are subjected to gender policing in socially specific contexts. Gender policing has particularly disadvantageous career implications for school aged girls. Gender policing puts feminine men and masculine women in physical danger, and gender policing subjects otherwise healthy newborn intersexed babies to invasive surgeries, because life as neither man nor woman is unimaginable.

Gender policing is irrational interference in personal liberty, and we can do something about it. Ideas that devalue femininity need to be confronted, as do the authorities of people who act to police gender. The value masculinity over femininity and of male bodies over female bodies over othered bodies and cannot be reconciled by a project of equality between between two separate, but equal, divisions of humanity. Rather than gender equality, a gender justice where feminists respectfully work across difference, instead of asserting sameness, must be enacted. The political thrust of IWD is for me an opportunity to prioritize resisting and replacing barriers to gender self-determination with a public policy model of gender pluralism.

This IWD, embrace complexity.