Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jun 2008
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Martin Veltjen


Re: Deal with addicts' problems rather than funding safe sites, June 4.

As a Belgian and European citizen, I want to respond to the Citizen's
debate on drug policy.

Regarding those other countries and governments that are reviewing
their drug policies, I can confirm that this strategy is based on
ideology. These governments actually seem to be reacting irrationally
and stupidly.

With the reclassification of cannabis in England, Prime Minister
Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith chose to ignore the
scientific advice from their own drug advisory board and chose the
side of a newspaper ranting on a streak of genuine "reefer madness."

Since the reclassification of cannabis from class B to the less
harmful class C, cannabis use among youngsters dropped 20 per cent.
Nevertheless, the ideological British government decided to put
cannabis back into class B.

The Dutch policy of reducing the number of coffee shops and
classifying 168 species of mushrooms as harmful drugs was again driven
by ideology. The coffee shops have to close down because they have
proven to be a success at what they were supposed to do: separate the
hard and soft drug markets and keeping non-violent drug users away
from the illegal market.

Despite being readily available to adults, the prevalence of cannabis
use was not higher (even lower in some cases) than in the neighbouring
countries. With the ban on mushrooms, the Dutch government again
ignored the advice of its own advisory board and the INCB
(International Narcotics Control Board).

The Dutch also experimented with user rooms for hard drug users. Some
of them closed down after a few years, because they ran out of
problematic users roaming the streets. The policy worked.

The current British and Dutch governments are protecting the interests
of the illegal criminal markets. In this, they are only serving a
certain minority of their citizens.

As letter-writer Andre Bigras notes, harm reduction is not the same
thing as prevention and does nothing to little to prevent drug use in
the first place. The same can be said of prevention, as it does little
or nothing to reduce the harm to those who couldn't be reached by
prevention and crossed the border to becoming users.

The argument doesn't make sense. It's like stating that traffic rules
do not diminish car use. Insite was never meant as a facility to
prevent drug use, but to prevent drug deaths and drug-related disease.


Ghent, Belgium
- ---
MAP posted-by: Steve Heath