U.S., Canada Spar Over Anti-Drug Policies 

U.S., Canada Spar Over Anti-Drug Policies 
Posted by CN Staff on September 16, 2003 at 10:42:50 PT
By K.L. Capozza, UPI Science News
Source: United Press International
San Francisco -- It produces and exports 95 percent of its illicit drug crop to the United States, it recently decriminalized medical marijuana and it is considering offering government-subsidized heroin to addicts. Yet few Americans are aware that the country in question is our mild-mannered northern neighbor, Canada.Canada's rapidly evolving drug strategy is raising eyebrows at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and inviting the ire of John Walters, the so-called U.S. drug czar, who has visited Vancouver personally to lobby against what he sees as wrong-headed, dangerous policies.
Perhaps the most irritating friction point between the two countries is the funding of a safe injection site for heroin and cocaine addicts by Health Canada, the nation's government-run healthcare system. This week, Vancouver opened the first legitimate "shooting gallery," where addicts are provided with sterile equipment, medical care and counseling. Harm-reduction advocates hope the Vancouver site will follow in the footsteps of a similar program in Frankfort, Germany, and other European cities where the introduction of safe injection sites brought about a reduction in crime, medical and legal costs and a drop in overdose deaths.The political will to support the controversial program emerged after a sudden spate of overdose deaths and a spike in diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C devastated Canada's urban drug-using populations in the 1990s. Member of Parliament Libby Davies began lobbying for government funding to address the needs of her district, Vancouver's lower East Side -- the epicenter of the intravenous drug-user disease epidemic."In my constituency drug overdose was the leading cause of death," Davies told United Press International. "People recognized that law enforcement was a useless tool for dealing with a public health problem."Indeed, the current approach stems from a widespread perception that the criminalization strategy does not work. Nevertheless, the site has outraged the Bush White House and prompted David Murray, special assistant to Walters at ONDCP, to suggest publicly that it could jeopardize trade between the two countries by forcing the United States to tighten its northern border. Walters has called Canada's program "state sponsored personal suicide."The argument that safe injection sites will prevent disease transmission is "utterly phony," Walters told UPI. It rests on the notion that certain drug users cannot be helped with treatment and recovery and is akin to suggesting some people's lives are not worth saving, he argued."I think it's outrageous to say that there's a certain category of people who are unworthy of the kind of care that we can offer," Walters added. "I don't' believe that Americans subscribe to it and I don't think we (at ONDCP) should."The best way to restrict needle-sharing and to "stop sero-conversion (to HIV-positive status) is to get people into recovery," Walters said. If addicts are not shooting up, they will not be spreading disease, he added.Baltimore, the U.S. city hardest hit by the crime and disease-related fallout of the injection drug-use epidemic, saw an increase in HIV and Hepatitis C cases after it introduced safe injection sites in the 1990s, Walters said."It was going to be the model of how to do harm reduction. In the course of that decade, Baltimore became the most seriously harmed city in the country," he said. "The current level of HIV infection is almost unbelievable, given what you see in the rest of the country. He noted Great Britain also experienced an increase in its drug-addicted population when it implemented a similar program.Some researchers have called that analysis misleading, however."Baltimore did not have a (safe injection site) program until 1994 and by then 90 percent of injection drug users were already infected with Hepatitis C -- they were already behind the eight ball," Stefanie Strathdee, associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told UPI. "How can you turn around an epidemic that already happened?" Strathdee added there is "no evidence that addicts will use more, that it will cause more crime or that they'll be more needles on the street. Each one of those arguments has been systematically addressed and there's just no evidence whatsoever to support them." This fall, Canada will test prescribed heroin as a treatment option for recalcitrant, long-term heroin addicts, another move opposed by the ONDCP. The multi-center study, sponsored by Health Canada, seeks to determine if intractable drug users can be made healthier and more functional when given controlled doses of heroin in a supervised environment.Some research suggests prescription heroin stabilizes addicts who do not respond to methadone, helps them return to productivity and reduces the risk of overdose death.A 2001 study by University of California, San Francisco, researchers surveyed the characteristics of 1,427 San Francisco heroine users and compared the behaviors of those who overdosed with those who did not. The researchers found socially marginalized heroin injectors who lack a stable community, a safe place to inject, and a steady and known supply of heroin tend to be more likely to overdose. A five-year study of Switzerland's prescription heroin treatment program -- which has existed since 1992 -- found crime had dropped by 60 percent and unemployment by 50 percent. Also, significant public funds were saved due to a reduction in legal costs, imprisonment and disease treatment after the program commenced.Many critics find it hard to swallow the argument that addicts should be treated with the very substance that enslaves them. Even Canada's conservatives have argued these strategies enable drug addiction by providing addicts with a state-subsidized fix.Proponents counter they do not claim to possess a silver bullet that will cure drug addiction. Instead, safe injection sites and prescription heroin programs are just one potentially useful treatment option to attempt to address the needs of a specific kind of substance abuser."These programs are not the answer -- but they address a particular need for a highly marginalized, usually homeless, injection drug using population," Donald McPherson, drug policy coordinator for the city of Vancouver, told UPI."There's an element out there that wants to say we're soft on drugs," McPherson said. "But it's not about politics. It's about pragmatic intervention -- it's about reducing death and reducing deadly diseases."As Canada pushes forward with its harm-reduction agenda, the ideological divide between the Canadian and U.S. governments could widen. But if the polarized sides in the anti-drug debate agree on one thing, it is a more effective approach is urgently needed. Drug overdose emergencies are flooding hospitals in North America's urban centers and addictions continue to devastate lives.Source: United Press InternationalAuthor:  K.L. Capozza, UPI Science NewsPublished: Septmber 16, 2003Copyright 2003 United Press InternationalWebsite: Contact: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Czar Claims Canada is Too Lax Sites, Canadian Drug Policy Seeks a Fix Turns Up Heat on Canada Over Marijuana
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Comment #8 posted by kaptinemo on September 16, 2003 at 13:32:22 PT:
We don't need huge arsenals of weapons
We have a new means of eliminating any enemy that might someday threaten the US.Just fit Johnny Pee with the most up-to-date translation equipment, drop him behind their lines and watch them succumb to terminal ennui. As in dying from boredom. Ol' Johnny reminds me of Shakespeare's Polonius: a crashing boor constantly lecturing and spouting platitudes when all around him are rolling eyes, tapping feet and fingers and are on the verge of screaming at him to just shut the f- up. Hey, Johnny: the border is plenty tight up there, already. The much ballyhooed BC Bud ain't walking our way. Canux don't want to languish in our jails if caught. And bloody few Amis are making the crossing. The bud is staying home, Johnny. It sure isn't showing up in my neighborhood.Lay off the Canux, Johnny; how much US made meth and trans-shipped cocaine is travelling North? Which does the most damage? And therefore, who's more at fault?
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Comment #7 posted by delariand on September 16, 2003 at 12:37:47 PT
The master of spin
The argument that safe injection sites will prevent disease transmission is "utterly phony," Walters told UPI. It rests on the notion that certain drug users cannot be helped with treatment and recovery and is akin to suggesting some people's lives are not worth saving, he argued."I think it's outrageous to say that there's a certain category of people who are unworthy of the kind of care that we can offer," Walters added. "I don't' believe that Americans subscribe to it and I don't think we (at ONDCP) should."It's amazing how Johnny Pee can twist something around. The story goes from "Health Canada's policy involves providing sterile needles and a safe place to inject drugs, while counseling users on life-saving sterile practices and getting help quitting drugs" to "Health Canada's policy shows that Health Canada feels drug users are unworthy of care, and that Health Canada wants drug users to die".It's amazing, he completely turned that around. Where did the notion that "certain drug users cannot be helped with treatment and recovery" come from, anyway? That notion came out of Johnny's rear end, is what I say. This whole program is 100% treatment and recovery! The goal is to reduce the dangers of disease transmission and overdose (treatment), while counseling the drug users on how to get off drugs (recovery)! There is absolutely ZERO evidence to back up this "notion" that is the basis of the entire American side of the argument! For that matter, what would Johnny have us do differently? I've got an idea, lets let the addicts keep shooting up with dirty needles and water in the streets, meanwhile we'll spend millions to show advertisements of kids smoking pot and shooting each other. Those commercials will stop the new drug addicts from starting, and we'll just throw all the existing drug addicts in jail! Of course, that'll work wonders!How can we respect our country when our Attorney General is basing international and national policy decisions on his personal "notions". I hear he also has a "notion" that abortion and assisted suicide are Against God, next thing you know he'll be spending millions in taxpayer money, prosecuting the states and citizens of this country over his personal feelings! (Oh wait...)
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Comment #6 posted by Jose Melendez on September 16, 2003 at 11:43:14 PT
test THIS!
from: may be that drugs like ecstasy and marijuana have some medical uses. There is already some evidence that this is true, but there's been no follow- up because the government will not allow it. The government is afraid of the answers, so it refuses to ask the questions. Meantime, lapdogs like this Ricaurte dude get gazillions of dollars to injure monkeys in various ways to prove that the people who think they are having a good time aren't. This is medieval science, intellectually bankrupt and breathtakingly stupid. 
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Comment #5 posted by WolfgangWylde on September 16, 2003 at 11:30:32 PT
Did some digging for the truth...
...Too bad the "journalist" who wrote this piece couldn't have taken 10 minutes to do it himself:From at the Canadian border are less than one percent those at the Mexican border. The DEA’s own web site says, “Virtually all the marijuana smuggled into the United States, whether grown in Mexico or shipped through Mexico from lesser sources such as Central America, is smuggled across the U.S./Mexico Border.”Nonetheless, this morning DEAland Drug Czar John Walters was on Canadian television claiming that the RCMP told him that 95% of BC’s “$5 billion” dollar cannabis crop is exported to DEAland. He said something similar on his recent visit to Vancouver.Of course, the Czar’s own web site says, “The ONDCP study What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs reports that in 2000 Americans spent an estimated $10.4 billion on marijuana. The same report also estimates that Americans consumed 1,009 metric tons of marijuana in 2000.”In order for Walters’ claim to be correct, the DEAland cannabis market would have to be at least $200 billion, or at least twenty times the government’s own estimate of $10 billion!
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Comment #4 posted by Max Flowers on September 16, 2003 at 11:15:41 PT
Wolfgang & Canadians
Wolfgang: you are on the money, that is obviously a fake statistic, pure BS.Canadians: as FoM says, many, many of we Americans are ashamed and disgusted by the actions and positions of these people who are pushing their (that's right THEIR, not our) values onto you. We are sorry you would even have to listen to it for a minute. These poor excuses for public servants were not elected, do not represent the attitude of average Americans, and definitely are not concerned with healing people as they like to attempt to make it look. Their agenda has to do with maintaining a prohibition-based industry and economy that makes money from prisons, property seizures, drug testing, surveillance gear, etc. Keep doing what you're doing, being compassionate and pragmatic, and IGNORE U.S. bleating.MF
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on September 16, 2003 at 11:09:13 PT
I Never Heard of Any from Canada
If it comes to the states I'm not sure where or why.
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Comment #2 posted by WolfgangWylde on September 16, 2003 at 11:04:15 PT
I don't believe...
...for one second that 95% of the marijuana grown in Canada is exported to the U.S. Don't journalists do journalism anymore?
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on September 16, 2003 at 10:44:59 PT
A Big Apology
To our canadian friends I'm so very sorry for the way our country tries to make you fall in line and listen to what they believe. Keep up the wonderful work Canada!
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