Pubdate: Sat, 23 Mar 2002
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2002
Author: Blair Midgley


RE: 'Cocaine fuels rise in crime' (March 19). Hamilton Police Chief Ken 
Robertson states that "90 per cent of all (street) crimes committed are as 
a result of drug users feeding their habits." Throw alcohol into the mix 
and I'd argue that  we've accounted for 99.9 per cent of all crime 
committed anywhere.

I have a novel (some will say radical) solution to the illicit drug 
problem: Stop enforcement altogether, and treat drug abuse as the 
public-health concern it is. In fact, take the next step beyond 
decriminalization and dispense drugs to users for free. Sound ludicrous? 
Picture the following scenario:

A 24-hour drug dispensary operated by health-care professionals and social 
workers where addicts can receive a prescribed dose in a clean needle, 
provided they inject at the facility and remain for a period of time after. 
The needles can be safely disposed of (preventing disease spread through 
re-use) and staff can monitor addicts under the influence. Then it's tea 
and cookies with the Salvation Army and some literature about, or a 
referral to, a rehab program. Drug users could be monitored, their habit 
regulated and they could be confident that they're not ingesting 
cornstarch, detergent or the cutting agent du jour and, just perhaps, be 
weaned off drugs altogether. But it must be free for the addict; then 
Johnny Crackhead won't have to break into my house and steal my TV or rob a 
bank to finance his habit. And because there's no profit anymore, we've 
just decapitated any group of goofs who import, manufacture or distribute 
illicit drugs.

Critics would argue that freely dispensing drugs would encourage young 
people to experiment. In my view, those not now inclined to jab something 
in their arm, put it up their nose, or smoke something named after a part 
of their anatomy are not likely to start just because it's free.

Even in today's environment of high street prices and high police 
enforcement, drugs are easy to come by for anyone who wants them. Take the 
profit away and we eliminate the need for substance abusers to be criminals.

Granted, the savings from law enforcement would have to be shifted to 
health care to finance the clinics. But the profits in human terms could be 
immense. Imagine leaving your doors unlocked or going for an evening stroll 
downtown without a care.

Like I said: It is a novel idea.

Blair Midgley,

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