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Vancouver Safe Drug Injection Clinic Has US Cities Watching

Vancouver Safe Drug Injection Clinic Has US Cities Watching
© Photo: AMgill
Inner city Vancouver suffers a heroin epidemic. In a harm reduction effort, the province has funded a clinic for safe, medically supervised injection drug use. US municipalities are watching, but the idea remains controversial, even within Canada.

US delegates at the Vancouver think tank conference on drug abuse "Beyond 2008", a UN sanctioned conference promoting better solutions to the drug problem, say that a number of US cities are considering adopting trial programs similar to Vancouver's safe injection project.

Vancouver, in response to endemic levels of injection drug use (and all of the problems associated with this use) initiated a pilot project called "Insite" which allows injection drug users to inject drugs under medical supervision, and free from fear of prosecution. The project aims largely to reduce accidental and fatal drug overdoses, as well as slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. Currently funded by the BC government, the project has been granted an additional 6 months of funding, but its long term existence remains controversial within Canada.

Deborah Peterson Small, a US delegate at the conference representing the New York based group, Breaking the Chains, says that a number of US cities are watching the Canadian experiment closely, with San Francisco closest to initiating a similar pilot project.

Another US supporter of the program, and of legalization in general, is retired New Jersey Police Officer, Jack Cole. Cole, who called the US war on drugs a "dismal failure", stated that legalization is the only way to end the violence and profiteering surrounding illicit drugs. He asserts that an overwhelming majority of law enforcement officials in the US agree with his assessment, and would welcome legalization and regulation over prohibition.

New York based Deborah Small concedes that although NYC is watching the pilot project, they are unlikely to fund a similar project anytime soon.

Legalization faces stiff opposition from most public policy groups, but Sanhoh Tree, from the Institute of Public Policy Studies out of DC, calls harm reduction projects a viable solution, although imperfect without addressing the origination of the drugs.

He blames political culture for the stubborn continuation of the drug war, even in the face of some considerable evidence against it, explaining that "Our politicians want to look tough".

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