Pubdate: Sat, 24 Sep 2005
Source: Burnaby Now, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.
Author: Matthew M. Elrod


Dear Editor:

Re: Drug death sends sobering reminder, In My Opinion, by Keith Baldrey,
Burnaby NOW, Sept. 17.

Baldrey suggested that we "get out in front of kids now ... and send
home the message that street drugs are evil, plain and simple." He
added: "That approach is working in combating smoking, and it is time
to use the same strategy against the growing menace of street drugs."

The trouble is, we did not discourage youth from smoking tobacco by
calling it evil, plain and simple. We educated them about the actual
risks and harmful effects of tobacco smoking, complete with graphic
pictures. Nor did we abdicate the manufacturing and distribution of
tobacco to the criminal underworld, inflate its value, spawn property
crime and turf wars and swamp our criminal justice system with tobacco
addicts. There are no illicit tobacco labs in our communities.

We tried the "evil, plain and simple" approach with cannabis and
cocaine and we lost our credibility. We need a fallback strategy for
youth who fail to accept, or are attracted to, unsubstantiated
"messages." We have sex education for when chastity fails, but "zero
tolerance" handicaps our drug curriculum.

Which is the least harmful? Cannabis, alcohol or methamphetamine?
Injecting methamphetamine or smoking it? What does using crystal meth
feel like? What are the risks of sharing needles? What percentage of
"street" drugs are adulterated and with what adulterants? What if I
get it from a friend who assures me it is pure? What happens if I use
cannabis with alcohol? What should I do if my friend takes a street
drug and has an adverse reaction? Will I be punished if I take her to
the hospital?

My 13-year-old daughter went to school with Mercedes, the Victoria
girl who, tragically and preventably, died from taking what she
thought was MDMA (Ecstasy).

Many years ago, I found my daughter throwing rocks. Rather than tell
her that rocks are evil, plain and simple, or attempt to create a
rock-free utopia, I taught her how to survive in a world full of rocks.

Like evicted teenagers, adulterated drugs are on the "street" because
we prohibit them, evicting them from other regulatory regimes. But, as
counterintuitive as it seems, prohibition is at the bottom, not the
top, of the regulatory scale.

We have more control over cat food than we do the so-called
"controlled drugs and substances." Perhaps our children will find a
better way.

Matthew M. Elrod, Victoria
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