Will NYC Implement Safe Injection Sites?
In the last few years, more and more people have looked toward safe injection sites as a means of dealing with the opioid epidemic rather than criminalization or prohibition. In the past, America, in particular, has been all about criminalizing drug users and with terrible results.
Drug War Has Done Nothing
For the most part, the drug war has done almost nothing, other than put drug users behind bars who, in many cases, were only guilty of victimless crimes, like possession of narcotics.
And because they’re prohibited, the profit margins of drug-dealing are insane. They’re not taxed or regulated.
As a result of being illegal, less-than-reputable characters typically take over the drug industry, rather than an institution subjected to rules and regulations.
Rather than consumers going to a place like the LCBO and buying it there – where the drugs would also come with product descriptions, dosage amounts, instructions on how to use, and warnings – instead, people have to go to some shady guy on the street corner.
Most have a link, someone they know somewhat personally, but it’s not much different.
If There’s A Market For It People Will Sell It
And if you take a shisha lounge, for example, they’re situated all over the cities of Toronto and Montreal. And of course, they’re illegal. But it’s not going to stop their existence because there’s a market for it.
While shisha isn’t the same as drugs like heroin or cocaine, the purpose of the example is to illustrate the same principle.
People can make money from opening shisha lounges, and there are ways of running them and avoiding immediate persecution from the police.
However, because they’re technically illegal, they’re not subjected to standards by the health department of Canada. The result of that? The hookahs are dirty.
While the practice of each lounge is probably different, some of them just have a guy in the back room, who doesn’t wear gloves, doesn’t clean the hookahs when they come back, and doesn’t use any kind of sanitation products for the equipment.
They’re filthy. I used to work in one. And one kid actually died from bronchitis, a bacterial infection of the lungs. However, no one knows if it was actually the hookah and shisha which did it to him, but it’s not unlikely either. Apparently, he was going there every day.
The Criminalization Of Drugs Has Lead To Other Problems
Moreover, sociologists and criminologists have long argued that drug laws are mostly just a way of persecuting minorities, primarily, African-Americans.
The truth is that most North Americans have tried either marijuana, cocaine, or MDMA/Ecstacy. If the government was to put every drug user behind bars, that would be probably close to 10% of the population.
And those are just the people who have used in the last month.
Today, the issue of drug regulation is more pertinent than ever. We’ve got people dying all over the USA and Canada every day from fentanyl. Throwing these people in prison does nothing.
According to the New York Times, their mayor, Bill De Blasio, supports the creation of safe-injection sites, inspired mostly by Canadians. But the NYPD doesn’t like the idea.
Nevertheless, the very first safe injection site appeared in 2003 in Vancouver.
Canada Has Realized The Necessity of Safe Injection Sites To Save Lives
The Supreme Court in Canada ruled in favor of the safe injection sites in 2011. But it’s unlikely the American government, especially, the Trump administration will give federal approval like in Canada.
In Toronto, safe injection sites were a necessity. Back in 2013, there were 104 opioid overdoses, and at the beginning of 2017, there were 263. Toronto has opened two safe injection sites last year, and four more in 2018.
However, the result of it hasn’t been ideal. While the incidents of overdoses have dropped, small businesses around the centers are finding it difficult to deal with the surge of crime following the creation of the safe injection buildings.
But There Are Problems
Some of the problems they’re seeing include people “urinating and defecating” all around the sites. As well as prostitution, sexual assault, noise, robberies, and so on and so forth.
John Tory, the current mayor of Toronto, has said he was reluctant to give safe injection sites a shot. But after familiarizing himself with all of the relevant data and studies, he became a supporter of them.
To him, safe injection sites are about “saving lives.” Interestingly enough, the New York Police Department sent a squad of officers with cameras equipped to them to figure out how Toronto and Vancouver’s police deal with the drug users.
The Future Of Safe Injection Sites in NY
And apparently, they weren’t pleased with everything. The commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said it was good for them to see how everything was going down to make sure “it doesn’t happen here (New York)”
So, the chances of New York seeing it happen anytime soon is probably not likely.
At the moment, officials in Toronto are trying to figure out if it’s because of the safe injection sites that crime has gone up. Or if it’s because of the general increases in drug-use and overdoses in the city.
And while they’re seeing problems surrounding the sites, the people who work in the clinics say the petty incidents of crimes are a tradeoff for the number of lives they’re saving every day.
Do you think safe injections site should be the norm? Make sure to say what you think in the comment section.
- Safe Injection Sites – Toronto: TheGlobeAndMail.com