Pubdate: Wed, 16 Jan 2008
Source: Monitor, The (McAllen, TX)
Copyright: 2008 The Monitor
Author: Robert Sharpe


To the editor:

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 is controlled by 
organized crime, consumers of the most popular illicit drug will 
continue to come into contact with sellers of addictive drugs like 
cocaine and methamphetamine.

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, MPA, policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, 
Washington, D.C.
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