By FRANK WATSON
Contributor 

The Seattle drug clinics are setting up to offer safe injection sites

Guest Commentary

 

February 8, 2018



I voted for Initiative 502 in 2012, not because I wanted to legalize marijuana, but because what we were doing wasn’t working. I thought it inconceivable that the U.S. government would allow any state to openly ignore federal law.

At best, I was hoping for a wake up call and Congress would recruit some very smart people to find a solution that worked. I thought the worst case would be for the state to be forced to cease and desist such that we would revert to the status quo. I was wrong — the worst case was that the states were allowed to remain in rebellion.

When the Obama administration elected to ignore the marijuana law, he encouraged defiance against other laws as well. No one in their wildest dreams thought that individual states would elect to legalize heroine, but it is happening.

Deaths due to overdoses of illegal drugs, especially opioids, have become a serious concern nationwide. Philadelphia, with one of the highest illegal drug mortality rates, began considering safe injection sites. Drug activists argue that privately operated safe sites had been operating for over three years. The city council president voiced his concern about federal intervention and asked if the benefits would outweigh the risks.


The issue remains on hold in Philadelphia, but the debate is ongoing in San Francisco and Portland. Seattle went one step farther and was the first municipality in America to sponsor clinics where addicts can inject illegal substances. Former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had no problem ignoring federal guidelines, and the King County Sheriff has declared that he will not enforce national drug laws in the county. With this official support, the King County Board of Health voted to allow two safe injection sites in the city and two more in the suburbs. Users are provided free needles and other drug paraphernalia plus guaranteed safe passage to and from the clinics.

The program is obviously a bad idea because the Justice Department can not and will not allow open defiance to continue. It is also a bad idea because it won’t solve the real problem.

I have known parents who keep their kids safe on prom night by allowing them to bring their friends and drink at home. This only encourages underage drinking. Buying beer for alcoholics encourages alcoholism.

Supervised injection sites encourage drug use. The real problem is not overdose mortality, it is substances addiction. Seattle Health Officer Jeff Duchin is right when he said “The status quo isn’t working” but encouraging drug use is the wrong thing to do — unless the real goal is to legalize all recreational drugs.


One way to eliminate illegal drugs is to make them all legal. The same arguments that were used for legalization of marijuana can be applied to heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. If the police in King County refuse to enforce drug use and possession, drugs are de-facto legal in King County.

The problems of addiction become a social problem rather than a legal one. Do West Coast activists intend to extend this experiment to the rest of Washington? If so, safe injection sites are a good start.

Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and long-time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free-lance columnist for over 19 years.

 

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