Pubdate: Thu, 21 Sep 2000
Date: 09/21/2000
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Author: Geoff Page

CONGRATULATIONS on your Sunday Times editorial (September 17,

It most eloquently raises the three key issues in the current debate
on heroin and its illegality.

First, it is, as you say, "a complex health issue, not merely a
law-and-order issue".

The latter conception is entirely self-imposed, almost a
self-inflicted wound, one might say, where society chooses to damage
itself by insisting that the substance be high-priced, cut with a
range of dangerous additives and of variable purity.

Secondly, you emphasise that Justice Miles, and other judges, see the
"consequences of its illegality every day". It is intriguing to think
about how the justice system might be improved if it had time to
concentrate solely on those crimes which hurt other people rather than
on those which hurt the "perpetrators" themselves.

Thirdly, you most movingly emphasise in your last paragraph the
humanity of those caught up in heroin addiction.

This is not to say that addicts do not commit crimes, scams and
personal betrayals in the course of their fund-raising, but it does
bring up again the issue of why the price of heroin has to be so high
and why it can only be supplied by dealers who are more concerned with
compensating themselves for risks taken than for their clients' welfare.