Pubdate: Mon, 27 May 2002
Source: Peak, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Peak Publications Society
Author: Robert Sharpe


Vancouver's proposed safe injection sites are definitely a step in the 
right direction, but they do nothing to undermine the thriving black market.

Because street heroin is unregulated, its quality and purity fluctuate 
tremendously. An addict accustomed to low-quality heroin who unknowingly 
uses near-pure heroin will likely overdose. Am I suggesting that heroin 
should be legalised and sold in convenience stores? Contrary to what 
tough-on-drugs politicians would have the public believe, there is a middle 
ground between legalisation and drug prohibition.

Switzerland's heroin maintenance trials have been shown to reduce 
drug-related disease, death and crime, and are currently being replicated 
in Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. Providing chronic addicts with 
standardised doses in a treatment setting eliminates much of the problems 
associated with heroin use. Addicts would not be sharing needles if not for 
zero tolerance laws that restrict access to clean syringes, nor would they 
be committing crimes if not for artificially-inflated illicit market prices.

If expanded, prescription heroin maintenance would deprive organised crime 
of a core client base. This would render illegal heroin trafficking 
unprofitable, and spare future generation's addiction. Harm reduction 
interventions have the potential to reduce the perils of both drug use and 
drug prohibition.

Putting public health before politics may send the wrong message to 
children, but I like to think the children themselves are more important 
than the message.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance
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