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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 3 - Public Policy Options

 Chapter 21 - Public policy options

Components of a public policy


The public policies described in the preceding chapter, as well as the policies of Denmark, Portugal, and Mexico, have a number of elements in common: they rely on a strong decision-making body, promote interconnection and multiple viewpoints, aim at national consensus on clear and measurable objectives, and rely on  independent knowledge and assessment tools.


Strong decision-making body

One may disagree with the political orientation of the American Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); but no one can deny the office gives strong direction to American national policy on drugs. Although one may be critical of the structural rigidity of the French Missioninterministérielle (MILDT), or its timidity with respect to legislative debate, however, one cannot help but agree that the MILDT has strongly influenced French policy and practice in the past five years. Each country covered in the preceding chapter has a highly visible, well-known decision-making body that has undeniable legitimacy and methods of action that meet expectations.

In our opinion, the question of drugs, inasmuch as it is broader than the jurisdiction of a single government department or level of government, inasmuch as it refers to our collective ways of relating to society and others, and especially inasmuch as it demands both integration and differentiation, must be governed by an agency that is not accountable to a particular department and can define direction for (not enforce diktats on) all players.



The policies on psychoactive substances are the concern of educators and therapists, police officers and anthropologists, diplomats and local associations and, of course, users. The ability to tie things together for knowledge and comprehension purposes supposes an ability to link specialties, administrations, individuals. This is the meaning of interconnection that a public policy must be capable of making.


A shared definition of shared objectives

In Chapters 11 and 18, we saw that federal policy on drugs, in addition to lacking rigour and clarity, means and infrastructures, is not a national policy. This does not mean there is no place for specific approaches by the provinces and territories that make up the Canadian mosaic. However, if a common culture on drugs is to emerge, if we are to better understand behaviours of use through geographic comparison, if players are to benefit from the experience of others, tools must be developed for the joint definition of shared objectives.

Moreover, the ability - and the will - to define objectives is the foundation of any future evaluation to determine whether or not the action taken is in sync with the objectives and is effective; in short, defining objectives is necessary because we must be able to assess the impact of what we do.


Information tools

A public policy must also rest on knowledge. Many witnesses, from all over, told us this. European Union member countries, the United States and Australia have developed powerful knowledge tools, specifically agencies that monitor drugs and drug addictions. These monitoring agencies, most of them independent of the government and political influence, are capable of measuring changing trends and forms of use of various substances, understanding emerging trends and new products, even assessing public policies. We are unable to see how Canada can fail to develop a national knowledge tool on psychoactive substance use.



Library Highlights

Drug Information Articles

Drug Rehab