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A surgeonís plan for legalized drugs
date: 13-October-2005
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Appeasement? Well, staying the course is a much better strategy......

Amid the flurry of voices on the phone cheering a column about an ex-cop advocating drug legalization was that of Dr. Joseph Foreman.

Dr. Foreman isn't a crank. When he told me that heroin, cocaine and meth should be legalized, I listened.

"You have to control the suppliers. Once you take their profits away, they dry up. This is how we keep young people from getting hooked," he said.

Foreman, 79, lives in Churchville and spent 40 years as a surgeon, part of it as chief of surgery at Warminster General Hospital in the 1980s.

Over that time, he treated surgical patients who, incidentally, were dope addicts.

Dr. Foreman believes the federal "War on Drugs" has descended into the sludgy depths of quagmire, with billions of dollars spent each year - and for what?

"Stigmatizing and discouraging use doesn't do what we want it to do. It doesn't get rid of the problem," he said.

His solution is to launch government-run clinics where registered addicts would go to snort and shoot up. (He doesn't include marijuana, which to him is not a "hard" drug.)

"If my plan works, there will be no more money for suppliers because the hardcore users will be getting [drugs] for free," he said.

With the profit motive gone, the black market would disappear, and kids would be far less likely to get hooked on street dope, he said.

His plan sounds like appeasement, I said.

"Yes it is," he said. "But I recognize that putting addicts in jail or arresting street runners who are supplying drugs only means there will be another guy to replace them. I think my plan will work. I really do."

I'm not so sure. Legalizing hard drugs as a means to curtail their use has been tried before in America, and it hasn't worked.

In fact, there's nothing new about the dope problem. As far back as 1875, cities and states were passing anti-drug laws.

"Active enforcement of effective laws against heroin and cocaine sales, combined with society's revulsion against drugs, slowly but surely eliminated most of the problem," Jonnes writes.

When recreational drug use made a comeback in the 1960s, two physicians at The Rockefeller University in New York tried it again, giving free morphine injections to addicts.

"We stand a much greater chance of people dying from overdoses when they get heroin from the street, and also things like AIDS and hepatitis. You would be preventing whole segments of disease," he said.

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