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Letter: Heroin conundrum

A recent series of articles in The Recorder described how heroin has come to Franklin County. Heroin trafficking accounts for a large fraction of petty and sometimes not-so-petty crime here. What is to be done?

Unfortunately, the answers to the heroin problem mostly lie far beyond the control of anyone in Franklin County, since the narcotics laws are at the federal level. A rational policy would aim at minimizing harm, and the greatest harm comes not from the effects on the users themselves but from the crime that heroin trafficking breeds and the criminal enterprises it supports. Such a policy would be modeled on the way we treat alcohol: we tax and regulate it, we provide programs to help alcoholics become free of their addiction and we restrict the ways in which alcohol can be marketed. Prohibition of alcohol was tried and it failed; it’s time to end the prohibition of heroin. There’s no doubt that heroin use is destructive, but so is excessive alcohol use.

Legalizing the sale of heroin at government-run dispensaries — with tight regulation, of course-—would take the profit out of the heroin trade. It’s that profit that drives the intense marketing of heroin by pushers and drives up the price. People won’t commit crimes to get their fix if they can get it legally and just as cheaply, and without marketing, far fewer people will even be tempted to try it. The same goes for all the other illegal narcotics on the market such as crack cocaine.

Two states, Colorado and Washington, are preparing to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and medical marijuana is coming to Massachusetts. Coming up with practical and workable laws that legalize marijuana but limit its sale and distributionis surely a challenge, but those states seem well prepared to meet it.

By the way, I personally don’t use marijuana or heroin and I don’t drink much alcohol. I once tried smoking a joint and, being a nonsmoker, almost immediately choked on it. I never tried it again.



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