Calgary Drug Laws and Calgary Gangs: Ending the Violence for Good: Part 2

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In Part 1 of this article, I described the very real problem facing those accused of gang-related crimes here in Calgary. The laws in Calgary defining gangs and "criminal organizations" cast a very wide net, causing many people to be charged with additional crimes and sentenced to harsher punishments for no other reason than supposed gang-affiliation during the commission of an alleged crime.

Those charged with gang-related crimes in Calgary overwhelmingly come from immigrant communities. Many already feel like outsiders and even outcasts in the larger Calgary society, unable to find acceptance and often adequate employment. This can make activities like drug trafficking—the crime most frequently associated with gang activity by the Calgary Police Service and by the Calgary media—seem like a good way to provide for a family and to earn prestige within their community.

Illegal businesses are susceptible to violence, and thus the image of the violent Calgary gang comes into existence. This image is then used by the media and others to create fear that only pushes some of Calgary's most vulnerable citizens further towards the outskirts of our society. The truth is, our current drug laws are far more dangerous to the people of our city than Calgary gangs ever were.

If our goal is a safer, happier, and more thriving city for everyone who calls Calgary home, we need to change our approach to gangs and our approach to drugs.

What's the Real Danger to Calgary's Citizens?

Every time another "gang-related" arrest is touted in the headlines, we're sure to here mentions of the guns and violence that the Calgary Police Service has attributed to "gangs." We're told that ongoing raids and extensive (and expensive) sting operations are the best way to eliminate the drug trade and "gang activity," even though these tactics have failed to produce any appreciable change in decades.

There are people in Calgary—and throughout Canada, and the world—who use drugs recreationally. There always will be, and the current drug laws and law enforcement attitudes are only making the problem worse.

From 1990 through the end of 2015, there were a total of 505 homicides in Calgary. Some were allegedly gang-related, others were not. Meanwhile, in 2015 alone, 207 fatal overdoses occurred just from fentanyl, not to mention overdoses caused by other drugs. Calgary's current drug laws make the drugs available on the street less safe, and make it far less likely that anyone suffering from the ill effects of drug use—whether that's a potential overdose or an addiction—will seek medical treatment for fear of prosecution.

Getting rid of gang activity and improving public health and safety is easy. Decriminalize certain drugs, regulate sales to keep things safe, and increase the services we offer to those suffering from addictions—with a bit of added community outreach to ensure certain populations within Calgary aren't being left out in the cold.

Finding room in the budget for all of this is easy, too. Stop the wasteful "war on drugs" mentality, and we can shift some money away from law enforcement towards programs that actually work to benefit our city.

Contact a Compassionate Criminal Defence Lawyer Today

Being charged with a crime doesn't make you a criminal. You deserve to have your voice heard, and I will fight to make sure that happens. For a free initial consultation with one of Calgary's leading criminal defence lawyers, please contact my office today.

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