Pubdate: Tue, 16 Aug 2005
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Section: Nation, Politics
Copyright: 2005 News World Communications, Inc.
Author: Cheryl Wetzstein
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Author: Cheryl Wetzstein


The Department of Health and Human Services is one of the "primary 
sponsors" for an upcoming Salt Lake City conference on methamphetamines 
whose organizers back the "harm reduction" approach to drug policy, which 
Republicans see as form of legalization.

Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, said in an angry letter sent Friday 
to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael O. Leavitt that the 
conference's approach to end the nation's "war on drugs" in favor of 
programs that try to limit drugs' harmful effects undercuts federal policy. 
"That administration officials from your department are consulting with 
harm reduction advocates ... and sponsoring conferences controlled by the 
harm reduction network completely undermines the work of the President, the 
Congress and the men and women who work in law enforcement across the 
nation who are trying desperately to fight the meth epidemic," wrote Mr. 
Souder, chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on criminal 
justice, drug policy and human resources.

Mr. Souder asked Mr. Leavitt to respond to him by this afternoon with an 
explanation about why HHS is involved with the conference and the names and 
contact information of HHS staff members who plan to attend. A phone call 
to HHS was not returned yesterday.

Luciano Colonna, executive director of the Harm Reduction Project and 
conference organizer, said HHS was listed as a primary sponsor of the 
conference because it gave $3,000 in travel scholarships to participants. 
Other government agencies funding the conference include the Utah 
Department of Health, the Utah State Division of Substance Abuse and Mental 
Health, and the California Department of Health Services. Mr. Colonna said 
his conference will explore the methamphetamine issue and how it is playing 
a role in the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. The conference was praised 
in March by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, and in May by Rep. Jim 
Matheson, Utah Democrat. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug 
Policy Alliance and a conference speaker, said "harm reduction" is a proven 
approach used in other countries.

Mr. Souder and others, however, see "harm reduction" as a cover for those 
who want to legalize drugs.

The Drug Policy Alliance is funded by billionaire George Soros, who 
supports drug legalization. Mr. Nadelmann has appeared on PBS "Firing Line" 
debates supporting the legalization of at least some drugs. Shepherd Smith, 
president of the Institute for Youth Development in Washington, said even 
the titles of the conference sessions show they aren't connected to healthy 
anti-drug policies.

As examples, he pointed to "We Don't Need a 'War' on Methamphetamine," "You 
Don't Have To Be Clean & Sober. Or Even Want To Be" and "Without Condoms" 
on the "harm reduction" approach to unprotected homosexual sex. Such 
sessions "really lead kids into harm and not away from it," Mr. Smith said.
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