Pubdate: Thu, 18 Oct 2007
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2007 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe


There is a middle ground between drug prohibition and blanket
legalization. Switzerland's heroin maintenance program has been shown
to reduce disease, death and crime among chronic users. 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 black-market prices.

Providing addicts with standardized doses in a clinical setting
eliminates many of the problems associated with heroin use. Heroin
maintenance pilot projects are under way in Canada, Germany, Spain and
the Netherlands.

If expanded, prescription heroin maintenance would deprive organized
crime of a core client base. This would render illegal heroin
trafficking unprofitable and spare future generations addiction.

Marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol, only without the
ubiquitous advertising. Separating the hard and soft drug markets is
critical. As long as marijuana distribution remains in the hands of
organized crime, consumers of the most popular illicit drug will
continue to come into contact with sellers of hard drugs.

Given that marijuana is arguably safer than legal alcohol -- the plant
has never been shown to cause an overdose death -- it makes no sense
to waste scarce resources on failed policies that finance organized
crime and facilitate hard drug use.

Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like
to think the children are more important than the message.

Robert Sharpe

Washington, D.C.

The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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