Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 2009
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Douglass St. Christian


I was disturbed by the recent editorial in The Beacon Herald
criticizing a judge for the sentence given to the operator of small
meth lab in Perth County ["Judges need to fight drug war too", Feb 16,

Since its inception the war on drugs has proven a monumental failure.
While it has generated dramatic headlines, it has also given us
bloated prison populations, bloated police budgets, and most
importantly, bloated and growing use of dangerous drugs.

In contrast, a harm reduction approach to dangerous drugs use, that
is, one focused on these drugs as a health issue, has been successful
wherever it has been applied. The World Health Organization, not a
radical group by any definition, has embraced harm reduction, and
encourages its member nations to adopt this approach to the problems
of dangerous drugs in our communities. A health based approach focuses
on the full range of risks and conditions which underlay all drug
abuse, whether meth, or the dirty little secret of alcohol abuse,
which should certainly rank as our most pressing drug problem, apart
from the fact alcohol is legal.

Evidence of the success of harm reduction approaches to drug abuse can
be found in our own backyard, in the longstanding efforts to deal with
smoking as a health issue. While we may find tactics such as the grey
metal cabinets behind which cigarettes now hide a tad silly, the fact
is a harm reduction approach has led to dramatic and continuing
declines in tobacco use. Certainly the editorial writer is not
suggesting that instead, we should start arresting convenience store
owners for selling cigarettes. That is what a "war on drugs" approach
would lead to.

While Choices for Change is certainly right to remind us of the
health, social and other costs of dangerous drug use to our
communities, certainly those on the front lines of this issue would
not advocate continuing a strategy which has failed by all reasonable

The judge in this case is to be applauded for recognizing that the
best path to justice is restoration, not only of the individual in
this case, but the community as a whole. Our entire community will
benefit both today and in the future if we first recognize that
dangerous drug use, in all its forms, is a health and a social problem
and not simply a criminal one.

After all, we don't expect the police to perform open heart surgery,
do we? So why pass along other equally real and devastating health
issues for them to solve?

Douglass St. Christian

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