Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Free Crack Pipes?

I heard today about a decision that Vancouver is making to expand its free injection zone sites and begin handing out free crack pipes.  I disagree with this move.  But not for the reasons that most do.  Although, I did hear an interesting take on the radio from David Berner.  From what I heard, his take is that this move to hand out crack pipes is a misguided aim at harm-reduction; a "silver-bullet" if you will, and that the larger unspoken goal is to move towards legalization of marijuana and perhaps other drugs.

Whether that is true or not, I can't say--it is after all an unspoken goal and I am far from the inner circles of drug legislation.  Now, this next bit that I am about to write will polarize people into one camp or another and so before I write that, I need to explain a few things first.

I believe in personal liberty.  I believe in personal responsibility.  I believe that we have given up too much of our personal liberty to the government and now we expect our government to do things that really are none of their business in the first place.  I believe it is our individual responsibility to help make this world a better place.  I think we too often expect the government to step in and solve issues that really can only be solved by individuals taking back control of their own communities.

How much do I value private liberty?  I believe that if a person doesn't want to wear a motorcycle helmet, they should be allowed to not do so.  I think that to not wear a helmet would be idiotic, moronic and sheer lunacy--but if you want to endanger your life--so be it.  Now, on the flip side, if while riding your motorcycle without a helmet you sustain a head injury then I don't think it is the governments responsibility to pay for your recovery.

Same thing for smoking.  You want to smoke?  Go ahead.  But don't expect the government to pay for your lung cancer treatment...or, if they do, then ensure that your premiums are jacked high enough to cover the cost--just like your life insurance policy.

We have given our freedom away by allowing the government to pass laws that protect us.  But really, why should we need those laws?  Oh, because we insist on paying for the morons who want to do things that will inevitably harm them.  We won't actually deny a person coverage for stupidity...nor would we then ask them to foot the, we spend money hiring people to pass laws; we spend money hiring people to enforce laws; we spend money to hire people to defend the laws in court.

Now, if you haven't figured out where I'm going with this, then you haven't been paying attention.  We were talking about drugs.  Drugs are illegal.  Why are they illegal?  Because they harm people.  But, every person that ever puts a joint to their lips--just like a cigarette or a bottle--has chosen to do that.  Why is it the governments responsibility to say what we as individuals should or should not do?

And, for the record, I do not use drugs of any sort.  I don't smoke.  I do drink from time to time.  We've spent countless millions putting drug addicts in jail.  All the while the cost of drugs has sky-rocketed so that the criminals are the ones getting rich...and all because we have abdicated the responsibility of looking after ourselves to the government.  So much so that now we are actually using tax-payer money to give free needles and crack-pipes to the addicts.

When are individuals going to start taking responsibility for their own actions?  If an addict wants to quit, an addict will quit.  Will it be easy? No.  Will he/she require support?  Absolutely.  Is the government in the best position to provide that support?  I doubt it.

Changing the drug culture in Canada is not going to happen overnight, but I believe it has to start with a realization that the criminals are NOT the drug users.  Legalize drugs and legislate them.  Divert the money we are currently spending fighting a losing battle into prevention, education and treatment.  And, prosecute the real criminals, dealers and importers, just like we do bootleggers.  Make drugs just like alcohol or tobacco.

Now, having written this blog/rant, I realize that some might read this and think that I advocate irresponsible behavior.  Where does the liberty end?  Your personal liberty ends the moment it infringes on another person.   As such, laws regarding speeding, driving while using a cellphone or driving while under the influence are absolutely within the governments prerogative because doing either of those things puts others at risk.

Any action that will not cause harm to another person need not be legislated by the government.  I am all for good government; however I believe our government has been given too much responsibility in too many areas that should not be governmental responsibility.  What should the role of government be in terms of addiction, substance-abuse and harm reduction?  Perhaps the best way a government can help is by finding ways of empowering individuals to make a difference in the lives of individuals.  There are folks who care--let's give them the tools and the power to help others.

I think I'll stop there.  This is up for discussion.


  1. Brandon, you have put into words the opinion that I have held for a long time and have tried to communicate to others. Well said.

  2. I'm glad you found a voice here. Thank you for your feedback.

  3. Well, Yes, .... and No. Yes we have abdicated a lot of personal responsibility (or at least some have), but no, we can't let government abdicate responsibility. An addict may not be able to quit on their own if they wish. They may be "too far gone" and may need help from others. I am no supporter of harm reduction, and I see it as a misnomer. I do think their are many things that can be done as a corporate group (ie through the government) that cannot be done as individuals, and hence the need for the government to step in. If the motor cyclist does not have the head injury after the accident and goes on to become a neurosurgeon, that benefits the whole community. Social Darwinism works well as an abstract concept, but do you really want ambulance attendants and doctors and nurses who can actually look at someone who is a victim of their bad choices and say "sorry you'll just have to live with the results of your bad choices, and I will feel no guilt over not treating you"? Wouldn't you rather have health professionals who will look after you in spite of your bad diet, and lack of exercise, and poor choice of parental genes, and do the best they can to overcome those obstacles? "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" - how many people threw stones? How many people do ALL the things they are supposed to do to live a healthy life? We should all get 30 minutes of exercise every day, we should all eat diets hight in fiber and low in white death (refined sugar). We should all remember to wear our seat belts, use the crosswalk, and not take candy from stranges, but there also needs to be a community that will pick us up when we fall or fail. Live for a while in a country that does not have a social safety net, and see whether you really prefer it.

  4. Thanks for your input. Now, you'll notice I didn't go so far as to say that we shouldn't treat the moron who decides to ride his/her motorcycle without an helmet and then gets into an accident. I just said the government shouldn't be forced to pay. Basically that person would have a hefty debt to pay off...but, if they do end up becoming a neurosurgeon, there would be no problem. My point is not that the addict shouldn't get help. It is that making a lifestyle choice illegal that hurts no one but the addict is lunacy. Further, to say drugs are illegal and hand out free crack pipes is futher lunacy. Make them legal. Allow people the liberty to do with their lives as they want. The government SHOULD protect me from criminals. I don't expect the government to protect me from myself. Basically, I am against Big Brother regulating every area of my life. I KNOW Energy Drinks have a lot of caffeine. Does the government really NEED to regulate the amount? Will Starbucks be next?