Source: The Lancet
Pubdate: 2 January 1999
Copyright: The Lancet Ltd
Author: Kelly Morris


A longstanding drug project will abandon distribution of clean injecting
equipment in New Brunswick (NJ, USA) after workers were convicted for this
offence on Dec 17, and the project vehicle was confiscated. Diana McCague,
who founded the Chai Project, a harm-reduction initiative, was given a
90-day suspended sentence, a US$750 fine, a 6 months' driving-licence
suspension, and 100 hours of community service.

She and other workers at the project have been convicted before under New
Jersey's "zero tolerance" Comprehensive Drug Reform Act. McCague now almost
certainly faces a jail term if she commits the offence again.

She told the court that her "resolve has been broken" and that she, and the
Chai Project while under her leadership, will abandon clean-syringe
distribution. In her court statement, published on the Drug Reform
Coordination Network website, she said "I am 
convinced that what we have been forced to discontinue is a public health 
service that has saved lives"

The most "shocking" part of the sentence, according to McCague, was the
edict that she should spend her community service working for the local DARE
(Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programme.

The countrywide DARE initiative involves uniformed police officers making
regular visits to classrooms to educate students to "resist drug abuse". At
the start of the visits, students have to sign a pledge to "keep their body
free from drugs". But, many individuals and communities now question DARE's
content, cost, and effectiveness. "If they want me to go into schools and do
drug education", McCague told DRCNet, "I'm going to go in there and tell the
truth. And truth has nothing to do with what the state means when it talks
about drug education".

New Jersey has some of the toughest anti-paraphernalia laws in the USA. Yet
McCague estimates that, of the 50 000 HIV-infected people in New Jersey, up
to three-quarters of these infections could have been prevented by clean
injecting equipment.

According to statistics from a 1998 report, AIDS is the leading cause of
death in US African-Americans aged between 25 and 44 years--more than half
these deaths are thought to be associated with injecting drugs.

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