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


CONGRATULATIONS on your Sunday Times editorial (September 17, p.14).

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.

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