Addicts are not criminals

An opinion piece arguing for more harm reduction and legalization:

…The answer is to stop treating any of them like criminals.

Decriminalizing or legalizing possession of hard drugs is not a decision to be taken lightly. We’re not talking about marijuana, a substance that should be legalized because it does little harm to anyone. But it’s explicitly because of the harm it currently does users that we need to reform our approach to heroin.

Study after study tells us that we can’t force junkies to clean up; they have to be willing and able to do so themselves. In those cases, the best we can do is harm reduction. And that means pulling them out from underground – from flophouses with dirty shared needles, and back alleys where there’s no one to help them when they overdose — and into places like Insite [Vancouver’s supervised injection center].

Reasonable people can disagree on these matters. However, while a few studies support his statement about coerced treatment, most do not. Proposition 36 in California appears to be reasonable compromise.

Vancouver has shortchanged treatment in it’s response to drug problems, and Victoria, B.C. is looking at a supervised injection site when it’s treatment system is in shambles.

Even if I accept that their motives are based on concern for the welfare of addicts themselves, I have a difficult time believing that there isn’t an equal dose of pessimism about their ability to recover.

Most of the addicts we come in contact with would love to recovery. Their biggest barrier is lack of hope. What do we communicate to them when we’re willing to invest in a supervised injection site but only give lip service to treatment and recovery support services?