Jerry Agnar argues that the Canadian Harm Reduction Network cannot say that the drug war has failed and that harm reduction has worked. He claims that if you make the case that the drug war has failed due to the continued prevalence of drugs then the same reasoning must mean that harm reduction has also failed. After all harm reduction has been around for thirty years at least and drug use is still rampant.
This of course is idiotic.
Harm reduction strategies has never been a society wide policy the way that prohibition has been. It has always been in isolated areas and so there is still an open question on what would happen if there was a shift in policy from prohibition to harm reduction. Most of the research of the programs that have existed shows that there are benefits, but there can’t be certainty until it is tried out on a larger scale. Still to say that harm reduction has failed is kind of like taking one bite out of a sandwich and declaring that because you are not full the sandwich couldn’t possibly fill you up.
Besides the primary objective of harm reduction isn’t to stop drug abuse but to reduce the harm that it causes. As Mr. Agnar himself says:
Insite’s web page reads, “Insite operates on a harm-reduction model, which means it strives to decrease the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use.”
So if abstinence is not the goal than how could harm reduction possibly be blamed for there not being more abstinence? I will change my earlier metaphor. It is more like someone taking a bite out of a sandwich and complaining that they are still thirsty.
What is more baffling is that Mr. Agnar doesn’t seem to be disputing that harm reduction actually reduces harm. He comes close to even acknowledging that it does reduce harm:
Cavalieri says it is in overdoses prevented. Fair enough.
So now Mr. Agnar is taking a bite out of the sandwich and then complaining that although he feels fuller he is still thirsty, thus the sandwich is a clear failure.
As silly as his attack on harm reduction is, Mr. Agnar’s defense of the drug war is even more…well ignorant would be the best word for it:
But the war on drugs prevents more drugs on the street than would otherwise be there. And the illegality of hard drugs keeps many people from experimenting with them in the first place, as many — perhaps most — people will not participate in illegal activity.
This would have been fine theory in the 1970s (well not really given the experience of alcohol prohibition but whatever), but since then there has been loads of empirical data that shows that Mr. Agnar is clearly wrong. It is as if he is making an argument with zero knowledge about the issue.
Jerry Agnar you are just making yourself look absurd by clinging to the zombielike corpse of this utterly destructive and failed policy of drug prohibition.