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October 2005
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Free hard drugs

Are people allowing themselves to actually be bolder in their thinking these days?
From a small Pennsylvania town

Amid the flurry of voices on the phone cheering a column about an ex-cop advocating drug legalization was that of Dr. Joseph Foreman.

I’m assuming the reference is to a story about one of the fine folks at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — perhaps Howard Woolridge’s ride across America. From that, a doctor gains the courage to speak up.

Dr. Foreman isn’t a crank. When he told me that heroin, cocaine and meth should be legalized, I listened.

“You have to control the suppliers. Once you take their profits away, they dry up. This is how we keep young people from getting hooked,” he said.

Foreman, 79, lives in Churchville and spent 40 years as a surgeon, part of it as chief of surgery at Warminster General Hospital in the 1980s.

Here’s where it gets really interesting.

His solution is to launch government-run clinics where registered addicts would go to snort and shoot up. ( He doesn’t include marijuana, which to him is not a “hard” drug. )

“If my plan works, there will be no more money for suppliers because the hardcore users will be getting [drugs] for free,” he said.

With the profit motive gone, the black market would disappear, and kids would be far less likely to get hooked on street dope, he said.

His plan sounds like appeasement, I said.

“Yes it is,” he said. “But I recognize that putting addicts in jail or arresting street runners who are supplying drugs only means there will be another guy to replace them. I think my plan will work. I really do.”

The reporter was uncertain about the idea, but at least willing to pass it on. Well, I can tell Dr. Foreman not only that his plan would work, but that it has worked.
From an article in the Guardian:

Switzerland is now leading the way out of prohibition. In 1994, it started prescribing free heroin to long-term addicts who had failed to respond to law enforcement or any other treatment. In 1998, a Lausanne criminologist, Martin Kilias, found that the users’ involvement in burglary, mugging and robbery had fallen by 98%; in shoplifting, theft and handling by 88%; in selling soft drugs by 70%; in selling hard drugs by 91%. As a group, their contacts with police had plunged to less than a quarter of the previous level. The Dutch and the Germans have had similar results with the same strategy. All of them report that, apart from these striking benefits in crime prevention, the users are also demonstrably healthier ( because clean heroin properly used is a benign drug ) and that they are more stable with clear improvements in housing, employment and relationships.

Kudos to Dr. Foreman for having the courage to think outside the box and speak up. Kudos to J.D. Mullane and the Bucks County Courier Times to look past their conventional wisdom and allow the doctor’s idea to be printed.
We’re a long way from the public’s ability to even let their mind grasp such a solution — being able to actually discuss it is an incredible first step.

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