Pubdate: Fri, 25 Apr 2008
Source: Baxter Bulletin, The (AR)
Copyright: 2008 The Baxter Bulletin.
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding your April 21 editorial:

Alcohol prohibition once financed urban terrorism between rival
gangsters, but that's no reason to reinstate it. Intensifying the drug
war is the equivalent of throwing good money after bad. The
supply-side drug war provides artificial price supports for organized
crime at home and terrorists abroad. Make no mistake, the drug war is
a cure worse than the disease. Attempts to limit the supply of illegal
drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of
drug trafficking. For addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in street
prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed
desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels crime.
There is a middle ground between drug prohibition and blanket

Afghanistan profits from the opium trade because of drug prohibition,
not in spite of it. Heroin produced in Afghanistan is primarily
consumed in Europe, a continent already experimenting with harm
reduction alternatives to the U.S. drug war. Switzerland's heroin
maintenance program has been shown to reduce disease, death and crime
among chronic users.

Providing addicts with standardized doses in a clinical setting
eliminates many of the problems associated with heroin use. Heroin
maintenance pilot projects are underway in Canada, Germany, Spain and
the Netherlands. If expanded, prescription heroin maintenance would
deprive organized crime of a core client base. This would render
illegal heroin trafficking unprofitable, spare future generations
addiction and undermine Taliban funding in Afghanistan.

The illicit drug of choice in America is domestically grown marijuana,
not Afghan heroin or Colombian cocaine. Marijuana should be taxed and
regulated like alcohol, only without the ubiquitous advertising.
Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. As long as
marijuana distribution is controlled by organized crime, consumers of
the most popular illicit drug will continue to come into contact with
sellers of addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin. This "gateway" is
the direct result of a U.S. drug policy based on cultural norms rather
than health outcomes. Given that marijuana is arguably safer than
legal alcohol -- the plant has never been shown to cause an overdose
death -- it makes no sense to waste scarce resources on failed
policies that finance organized crime and facilitate hard-drug use.
Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like
to think the children are more important than the message.

For information on the efficacy of heroin maintenance, please read the
following British Medical Journal report:

To learn more about Canada's heroin maintenance research please

Robert Sharpe, Policy Analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington, D.C.
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