Legalization of Hard Drugs Not The Answer

  Legalization of Hard Drugs Not The Answer

Posted by FoM on November 12, 2001 at 17:36:43 PT
By Fiona Flanagan, Vancouver Sun  
Source: Vancouver Sun  

Senator Ed Lawson, a member of the special Senate committee reviewing Canada's anti-drug laws, suggested last week that the government consider selling heroin and cocaine at liquor stores. "I'd be willing to give it a try," he was quoted as saying. The remark shows an ignorance of, and attitude toward, drug use that demonstrates why we have some of the problems we have.
Comments such as Mr. Lawson's are detrimental to the purpose of the committee, and undermine the good work and intentions of those truly seeking a solution to an out-of-control problem in our city and country.Decriminalization of marijuana may be an option worthy of consideration to some, an inevitability to others. But to suggest that heroin and cocaine might also be drugs worth legalizing is asinine. They are completely different drugs with completely different problems associated with their use.Rob McLaren, a detective with the Vancouver police drug squad, has been on the job for 27 years and he's seen a lot of changes in the local drug scene. Years ago heroin was the evil drug and cocaine was a nightclub drug, not readily available. In the early '80s heroin was out, Talwin and Ritalin were in.Things changed again in the mid-'80s as cocaine became more available and using it became socially accepted in some circles. In the late '80s and early '90s, users figured out that they could inject coke for a better high and there was an influx of Asian heroin to the city that was cheap and easy to get. Then came crack, designer drugs, acid resurfaced -- well you get the picture.Cops will tell you that they would rather deal with a heroin junkie than someone addicted to cocaine. There is some predictability to heroin users, none to cocaine addicts. Even the bad guys know it. A senior officer of the VPD, who spent a number of years on the drug squad, said of cocaine use, "Most traffickers at the mid-level and above don't use the product. Organized crime groups, like the [Hells] Angels, tell their people 'sell it, but don't use it -- it'll mess you up.' "Detective McLaren was in Frankfurt, Germany, last year to look at their safe-injection-site program to see how a similar program might work here. He was admittedly skeptical about the concept and somewhat surprised at its apparent success. "It's a very pragmatic approach to the problem," he says.Some sites are simple rooms, while others consume entire buildings, divided into specific areas of use, such as emergency shelters and medical clinics. Some have clothing swaps and barber shops. The coffee shop -- Café Fix -- provides decent food, and everyone at all sites has access to medical personnel and addiction-treatment strategies.Addicts have to register at the sites, which are government funded and supervised. Anyone who violates the program rules is subject to expulsion and criminal charges. The combination of enforcement with addiction treatment may be why it works. As Detective McLaren notes, "No one agency works in isolation."Frankfurt has had safe injection sites since 1994, and although the program is considered successful, there is no tangible yardstick to measure its effectiveness. Perhaps it is enough that residents can now safely walk in areas that previously belonged to junkies. The drug world is a world of supply and demand. Enforcement may be better spent on the traffickers and the users better managed by those in the social-welfare and medical communities. But whatever we decide to do, as Detective McLaren says, "We need to advance on all fronts, not just one. And we better get started."There are no easy or short-term solutions to this problem. It will take a coordinated effort by a host of agencies, and a lot of money.The Downtown Eastside is a land of broken dreams -- for the business community, the tourists, the residents and those of us who remember when you could walk from Gastown to Chinatown without thinking twice about it. If you frequented our city 10 or 15 years ago, you know what's happened here. But we can't give up on it.No matter what approach we adopt, it will probably take years to determine its effectiveness. There are more questions than answers to the dilemma of what to do with our addicts. But as Detective McLaren says, "It's a miserable lifestyle. No one voluntarily chooses to be a drug addict."One thing is certain. Taking the easy way out, by legalizing those actions we can't control, is not the answer.Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)Author: Fiona Flanagan , Vancouver Sun Published: Monday, November 12, 2001Copyright: The Vancouver Sun 2001Contact: sunletters pacpress.southam.caWebsite: Articles & Web Site:FTE's Canadian Links Pay a Visit To The Compassion Club Urges Sale of Heroin, Cocaine 

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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on November 13, 2001 at 09:25:39 PT
the fun begins
One of the most enjoyable parts of drug policy reform in Canada and England is watching how the anti's modify their message as they lose ground. In those two countries, the writing's on the wall that cannabis will be completely normalized within the culture over the next 5 years. Now they're abandoning the front line and retreating to the next outpost of hypocrisy - "hard drugs".Most of the things this writer is saying seem to be arguing for legalization! They haven't quite got their rhetoric fine-tuned yet.......
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Comment #1 posted by freedom fighter on November 12, 2001 at 21:09:25 PT
It's official!!
"Decriminalization of marijuana may be an option worthy of consideration to some, an inevitability to others. But to suggest that heroin and cocaine might also be drugs worth legalizing is asinine. They are completely different drugs with completely different problems associated with their use."It's official!! Cannabis is not the same as heroin or cocaine. ff
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