Four decades ago, President Nixon declared the War on Drugs to combat drug use and narcotic trade. The United States has taken measures to limit the use of drug abuse in its nation through the implementation of laws such as the Controlled Substances Act to regulate substance use and the “Just Say No” campaign to inform teenagers on the dangers of drug abuse. Despite these efforts, the United States still has over 2.8 million people using illicit drugs regularly. The opioid epidemic has also been widespread and approximately $740 billion is being spent annually on expenses related to health care and drug-related crimes.
How have drug injection sites been proposed and why have they been controversial?
As issues regarding crime and health emerged with the spread of drugs, there have been new approaches to address the problem. Medical marijuana was legalized (in 33 states and D.C.) to reduce criminalization and promote consumer safety. Drug injection sites are also being introduced to society in an attempt to provide clean needles and rehabilitation services for drug abusers. These sites will provide a medical staff with 24/7 supervision to reduce harms of unsanitary injections and overdose.
Proponents of these localities have argued that it will provide a safe place for users to rehabilitate effectively. Those in favor claim that it will benefit the economy since drug injection sites would reduce the costs of emergency hospital visits, saving approximately $2 million every year in health care.
Denver City has had supporters of these sites who had seen the development of InSite, a supervised injection site in Vancouver. It is the first-ever North American drug injection site, located in Canada, and is considered to be a success due to users paying fewer visits over a long-term treatment plan. It has prevented deaths and reduced the risks associated with doing drugs. Advocates in Denver City have aimed to start a pilot program which would be governed by the Board of Public Health and Environment. However, the state legislature of Colorado must legalize proposed bills for the plan to take action. Cities like Philadelphia and Seattle also have similar bills impending but face the challenge from critics of the program. Many European countries have implemented similar drug injection site programs.
Some have claimed that drug use is a crime and the legalization of these sites will only promote crimes. They consider drug abusers to be criminal offenders who should be punished for violating laws rather than having a safe haven that makes it easier for them to continue illegal actions. Opponents believe it goes against America’s ideology of avoiding drugs to be the ultimate goal. The federal government may lose control over drug management policies. It could cause trouble keeping uniformity in these local sites. Critics have also fulminated against the plan due to their view that drug use will be encouraged. They claim these facilities to be a threat to the public safety of others living in the city who don’t want the presence of drugs around themselves. The subject has been quite controversial and comes down to whether one values safety more or complete abstention from drugs.