Swiss radicals

The post title is not a very common combination. I know, I checked.* And none of them are to do with my topic, which is the referendum in Switzerland today about drugs. After a long trial with giving hardcore heroin addicts controlled low-level doses of the opiate for free, they have voted to expand it into a fully fledged program. I say ‘radical’ in light of Australia’s official attitude towards the far less liberal injecting rooms idea, but it’s actually more pragmatic than radical – it improves addicts’ lives a great deal, reduces crime, reduces imprisonment and homelessness rates, all the benefits that the harm minimisation approach can provide that punitive policies can’t begin to achieve.

It’s not ideal. It is for addicts who have tried years of traditional treatment and rehab programs but still can’t kick the habit, so there’s plenty of people who won’t take part and benefit, diluting the efficacy. What is needed is further radicalism – decriminalisation. That immediately eliminates the illegality premium that causes the impoverishment of users, and makes them more accessible for social and health workers. Those who say it will increase heroin usage have a point, but I think the effect will be small. Resources currently tied up in pursuing and prosecuting can be diverted into education and treatment, for example, which will reduce usage.

Which brings me to the disappointing side of the referendum vote – the one against decriminalising cannabis. Still, I think in the long term the logic and pragmatism will win out, and eventually drugs will be dealt with in a rational fashion. Or am I expecting too much?

* 718 hits is damn low, but you can find dual-word combinations that get lower. In fact, it’s a game – put any two English words in quote marks (no proper nouns), trying to get the fewest hits possible. First person to get 1 hit wins. You might be surprised how weird you have to get to achieve just one result.

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