Editorial: Don't Stop There 9/19/03

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


David Borden
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

Vancouver's safe injection site -- a facility where users can inject in safety from police arrest and the street's many other ardors, with access to public health services -- is a welcome first of its kind on the continent. But supporters have rightly pointed out dangers built into the situation that could threaten its success and continuation even before it has proved itself:

Health Canada has overregulated the project, which risks alienating or frightening its intended clients away. Vancouver police have promised a lot of attention -- they say they want to make it work, and perhaps they do -- but early comments indicate a less than complete understanding. And any problem or incident with the site or program -- or anything that media or political opponents can misrepresent as such -- could potentially bring the whole thing down, as could a shift in the city's, province's or nation's future political landscape.

One more reason, then, not to stop with the safe injection site. Harm reduction programs, partial reforms to sentencing or drug policy, all of these are deeply vulnerable to sudden attack and setbacks, so long as drugs themselves remain illegal. In 1970, federal mandatory minimum sentences in the form of the Boggs Laws were repealed through bipartisan consensus, only to abruptly come back 16 years later after a college basketball star overdosed on cocaine. Britain's successful heroin maintenance programs, including the famous Liverpool clinic reported on by Sixty Minutes, ended when a conservative administration decided not to fund them in a country where health services are provided by the federal government. A study would easily find copious examples of positive change turned back, at all levels of government.

In a society frightened by drugs and convinced that prohibition is the way to handle them, progress is unstable. There are too many vested interests, too many politicians, too many well meaning but frightened people too ready to overreact, too many ways that drugs and drug problems can be misunderstood or taken out of context or proportion. The only politically, reasonably stable situation in drug policy reform will be one in which drugs are legal and government is not expected to hunt down, punish and control its sellers and users beyond some reasonable level of regulation; and in which people understand intuitively that legalization was a necessary response to the failure of drug prohibition, as with the legalization of alcohol in the 1930s.

This doesn't mean, of course, that all the good partial changes being worked on shouldn't be. Medical marijuana, sentencing reform, harm reduction, these and many other efforts are helping to save lives and end injustice, and are slowly setting drug politics on a better track. But if it stops there; if the end point of the encouraging developments of the past 10 years is a "kinder, gentler" version of prohibition, but still prohibition, then a future return to the drug war and the appalling suffering and violence attending its current form will be inevitable.

One more reason, then, not to stop at a "kinder, gentler" prohibition. The not-so-noble, 90-year experiment must end, and end in full.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #303, 9/19/03 Editorial: Don't Stop There | A Clean, Well-Lit Place to Shoot Dope: Western Hemisphere's First Government-Approved Safe Injection Site Opens in Vancouver | And Then There Were Four: Canadian Marijuana Possession Laws Crumble | Britain's Pending Cannabis Decrim Will Allow for Some Arrests | More Than Just Memories: Cheryl Miller Memorial Project in DC Next Week | Newsbrief: Seattle Voters Tell Police to Make Marijuana Possession Lowest Priority | Newsbrief: Marijuana Legal in Alaska, But Attorney General Orders Cops to Confiscate It, Work with Feds to Build Cases | Newsbrief: Ecstasy Scandal Grows as Second Study Retracted | Newsbrief: Drug Policy Alliance Issues Report on Changes in State Drug Laws | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Reefer Madness in the Heart of Africa | Newsbrief: Campaign Comments -- John Edwards on Industrial Hemp | Newsbrief: Murderous Thai Drug War in Final Drive to be "Drug Free" | Newsbrief: UN Agency Calls for Change in Colombia Drug War Strategy | Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Errata: Dutch MedMj, Ecstasy Study Stories Last Two Weeks | The Reformer's Calendar
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]