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Source: Ottawa Citizen (Canada) Pubdate: Monday 20 July 1998 Contact: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/ CHINA WHITE LIGHTNING One of the many ironies about making drugs illegal is the fact that it guarantees drugs become more and more potent -- and increasingly dangerous. That's because the smaller drugs are, the easier they are to smuggle. The way to reduce their weight without reducing their value is to make them more potent. That's dangerous to users, who often aren't aware that a drug's strength has changed. Now the old dose kills. It's happening today in Vancouver. A new, stronger heroin has killed 201 people in the past six months. There were only 147 such deaths in the same period last year. For addicts who aren't killed by this side effect of drug criminalization, another danger awaits. Making drugs illegal drives up their selling price -- which is the point for enforcers, who assume that if drugs are expensive, people will stop using them. Not only is that demonstrably untrue for many non-addicts, it ignores the fact that addicts will pay whatever it takes, often up to $200 a day, to feed their habit. Bankruptcy is inevitable. Then come prostitution and crime, which add more corpses to the death pile. These are the worst harms of drug addiction and they are the result not of the drugs themselves, but of their prohibition. The lesson is being learned in Vancouver. Decriminalization of heroin has been demanded by, among others, Vancouver MP Libby Davies, policeman Gil Puder, and the Council of Health Officers, an organization of public health doctors. But it's a long way from Vancouver's skid row to Parliament Hill. So far, the government has shown no sign that it hears B.C.'s pain. Copyright 1998 The Ottawa Citizen - --- Checked-by: "Rich O'Grady"