Pubdate: Sat, 11 Oct 2014
Source: Charlottesville Daily Progress (VA)
Copyright: 2014 Media General Newspapers
Author: Robert Sharpe


Regarding the Oct. 5 editorial ("Stopping the drug flow will save our 
lives," The Daily Progress):

Stopping the flow of illegal drugs is easier said than done. 
Successful efforts to stop the flow of drugs are a very real threat 
to public safety. 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 much that Virginia can do to reduce overdose deaths. First 
and foremost, the Virginia General Assembly needs to pass a Good 
Samaritan law that provides immunity to drug users who seek medical 
attention for themselves or a friend in response to an overdose 
event. At present, illegal drug users are reluctant to seek medical 
attention. Attempting to save the life of a friend could result in a 
murder charge.

The biggest obstacle to saving lives is overzealous drug war 
enforcement. In addition to giving rise to preventable overdose 
deaths, rehabilitation is confounded. Turnout at Alcoholics Anonymous 
meetings would be dramatically lower if alcoholism were considered a 
crime rather than a medical condition. Eliminating the penalties 
associated with illicit drug use would encourage the type of honest 
discussion necessary to facilitate rehabilitation and save lives.

One final action Virginia can take to reduce overdose deaths is to 
legalize medical marijuana. New research published in the Journal of 
the American Medical Association shows that states with open medical 
marijuana access have a 25 percent lower opioid overdose death rate 
than marijuana prohibition states. This research finding has huge 
implications. The phrase "if it saves one life" has been used to 
justify all manner of drug war abuses. Legal marijuana access has the 
potential to save thousands of lives

Robert Sharpe


Robert Sharpe is policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.

References: JAMA research overview: ttp://; 

2007 research conducted by California 
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