Pubdate: Fri, 22 Nov 2002
Source: Bellingham Herald (WA)
Copyright: 2002 Bellingham Herald
Bookmark: (Walters, John)
Bookmark: (Safe Injecting Rooms)
Bookmark: (Emery, Marc)


Safety: Hecklers From B.C.'s Marijuana Party Boo American.

VANCOUVER, B.C. (AP) - Vancouver, B.C.'s proposed safe-injection sites for 
drug users are a waste of resources that should go to helping addicts get 
clean, U.S. drug czar John Walters says.

Any policy that makes life easier for drug users will only attract more 
drug users, he said after a speech Wednesday to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Walters' speech on America's drug policy was punctuated by frequent booing 
and heckling from a table of people that included Marc Emery, leader of the 
B.C. Marijuana Party.

Walters conceded that safe-injection sites might save some lives "if you 
have people who overdose."

"Why not save people from the fatal disease of addiction and not just from 
the fatal opportunity for an overdose at some point in time?" he said. "Use 
the resources - they're always going to be scarce - to make people well, to 
reintegrate them into society."

Walters said he doesn't agree that safe-injection sites reduce the spread 
of disease.

Mayor Philip Owen and Mayor-elect Larry Campbell, who attended the speech, 
both said they didn't agree with Walters' statements on that issue, but 
supported his comments about the importance of prevention and treatment.

Walters said he was in British Columbia to discuss issues of border 
security and the problem of the province's large marijuana industry, 
estimated at $3.2 billion to $3.8 billion a year, with 95 percent of the 
drugs going to the United States.

He said he hoped to help Canadians avoid the drug problems that the United 
States has "paid a bitter price for."

Walters focused much of his talk on the dangers of marijuana, which 
prompted several verbal exchanges from those at the Marijuana Party table.

After the speech, Owen questioned Walters' information that 60 percent of 
the 6 million drug addicts in the United States are addicted to marijuana 
and represent the bulk of people filling up the American drug-treatment system.

Owen said the reason people using marijuana are so prevalent is because the 
United States is more aggressive in arresting people for simple marijuana 
possession and, through the drug-court system, they're forced to choose 
between jail or treatment.
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