Two emergency public health programs, one in New York, the other in San Francisco, highlight problems certain nations, governments and communities face in overcoming their drug war problem.
San Francisco’s latest answer to drug wars is called a linkage center. It allows for onsite opioid injections in sterile conditions overseen by medical assistants who monitor users for overdose. The linkage center also informs its clients on options for readily available medical treatments for addictions. To date, the center is credited with saving the lives of five people from opioid ODs. Yet, a limited number of reactionaries speaking as concerned parents still push an inflexible and absolutist prohibition policy, even though their emotional dismissals of harm reduction or prevention might someday put a tragic end to their own children’s lives. Their kids (in actuality adults) have an opioid use disorder. In San Francisco, the group is protesting the sale and use of opioids within a securely fenced and visually blocked area.
Anyone searching for reasons that entice troubled people to seek out and consume alternative medications that lead to addiction need look no further than helicopter parents flaunting their ignorance about drugs and harm prevention:
Demonstrators in SF accuse city’s linkage center of allowing open drug use
Unfortunately, what we have here is a classic example of the perils of the Half-Measure.
The legalization-medicalization approach shifts the supply source of opioids to legal channels- either through legal prescription by physicians for the purpose of addict stabilization and maintenance, through sales of opioids controlled for purity and dosage quantity in regulated legal commercial retail sales, or both. To be clear, this is the general approach that I personally favor.
The classic law enforcement approach prohibits the possession and sales of opioids by law through criminalization policies that cedes the control of the drug trade to criminal profiteers. Although the policy merely impedes the illegal trade rather than achieving success at stopping it, criminalization nonetheless imposes a regime of criminal penalties on the retail sellers of unregulated,untaxed opioid products of dubious purity and unknown potency supplied through illegal sources. Law enforcement never deterred the retailers entirely, but it’s made the street trade in hard drugs a much less attractive line of work, with chancy prospects of reward that are balanced with the risk of incurring criminal penalties.
The Half-Measure approach retains the official policy of prohibition of opioids and criminalization that keeps the supply of opioids as a de facto monopoly of criminal profiteers- but it replaces enforcement with a status of de facto impunity for the retail sellers. The markets are still unregulated and untaxed; the products are still clandestine and not subject to regulation for purity or potency; the demand for opioids is still supplied through illegal channels through supply chains that consist of organized criminal networks.
So what you end up with is a flea market for dangerous, potentially lethal substances, where the dealers aren’t even charged admission and the tab for the upkeep of the enterprise is picked up by the public. A marketplace that’s incidentally a magnet for dysfunctional street addicts and the second-order consequences of their derelict behaviors, which include a marked increase in a wide array of crimes that have actual victims, and a consequent denial of public space.
Supervised injection sites accomplish only a bare minimum of harm reduction for the users; without a provision for legal supply, the good is outweighed by the cultivation of a criminal social milieu with the dealers at the top of the status heap, a steady supply of customers that’s entirely liable to expand as more addicts get the word, and a group of public health workers whose lifesaving interventions incidentally work to preserve the demand side of an illegal marketplace that traffics in clandestinely made products that are inherently hazardous.
the problem is our society and its addiction to prohibition(s). Examine what happened with Switzerland’s transition into medical provision of injection sites. Theirs was a transition from shooting galleries in parks and alleys into a legal system of licensed medical sites and providers, over 20 years.
Switzerland fights heroin with heroin
this is the most recent piece (Mar 2022) I could find on Switzerland and its HAT program:
Unfortunately off topic here. I fear we have lost our dear brother Clay Gooding to the COVID Pandemic. His last Facebook post was over a year ago, and in that he stated he had contracted the virus but that so far, symptoms had been mild. Then silence. Clay if you’re out there, please let us know. If not…you will be missed, my friend. Rest In Peace.
Clay buddy, are you out there? Remember how I would wager a ton of Blue Dream over my being right about things in the War via drug money terrorism? Clay, you need to collect your Blue Dream . . . remember the wager was that I get unlimited Blue Dream for being right about my predictions (something I learned from Hunter Thompson) and each time you responded: “I’ll take that Blue Dream from you . . .”
From one Veterans to another. Clay, your persistence on this couch taught me I could never leave the fight.
And where iS Duncan at? I know we butted antlers like two horny elk vying for one deer, but without him as well, I wouldn’t deep dive my research to appease him–to prove my working in a CIA prison in Baghdad gave me a high vantage point for looking at the War on Drugs. And Duncan is probably a big reason why I read very long books about the Savings and Loans scandals in relation to the War on Drugs and how it would play out in Baghdad after 2003.
Just heard from him…. he has stopped using the computer-machine…cannot say I really blame him. But dang. Was worried our brother had fallen.
Clay is good you say? This makes me Happy, to use such an ordinary word. And how are you Darkcycle? Guess what: Petes’ Couch is more important than ever. The time is ripe for a new wave of citizen based approaches and TikTok et al is viable and healthy for the environment of evolution in revolutions for a stiff fight for Democracy.
Just amazing that America criminalized plants (starting with the poppy) ostensibly to prevent addiction. And what happened? Now 1 in 4 American women are chemically dependent for life on brain-numbing Big Pharma anti-depressants, many times the amount who were ever habituated to opium prior to 1914. That’s a nation of Stepford Wives, and how do drug warriors respond: they tell us to “keep taking our meds.”
The moral is clear: you can outlaw certain substances, but you can’t outlaw the desire for happiness and self-transcendence. Had we taught about the poppy and the coca plants rather than demonizing and criminalizing them, then 2000+ black Chicagoans would not have died by gunfire in 2021. Moreover, it was a clear violation of Natural Law to outlaw plants in the first place, as John Locke himself wrote that we have a natural right to the use of the land and all that lies therein.
In short, the drug war is so screwy that one scarcely knows where to begin in denouncing it. Far from being merely flawed, as some confused liberals insist, it represents a wrong way of looking at the world, one that leads to the militarization of police forces and the Nazification of our language, as those who sell demonized plants are dismissed as “scum” and “filth” worthy of immediate death.