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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • And Then There's The Truth: A San Francisco Pipe Dream

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  • Crack cocaine is illegal, and we don’t want you to smoke it, but if you really want to smoke it anyway we’ll give you free crack pipes.
    This is the philosophy that the HIV Planning and Prevention Council (HPPC) is hoping they can convince the San Francisco city government to adopt.
    They are proposing a crack pipe exchange program but so far they do not have support from city administrators.
    Similar to needle-exchange programs, that allow IV drug users to exchange used syringes for clean ones, this program is intended to combat the spread of HIV.
    But, unlike infected needles, crack pipes don’t pierce the skin, so the chance of spreading HIV through a shared crack pipe is next to 
    nothing.
    That doesn’t stop Alli Kraus, a syringe access coordinator at Glide 
    Health Services, who claims that people who smoke crack are twice as 
    likely to contract HIV as non-crack smokers.
    She also claims that crack use increases HIV infections because 
    smoking crack leads to poor lifestyle choices such as prostitution.
    So giving users more pipes will cut crack cocaine use and HIV 
    infection rates?
    “It may seem counter intuitive, but it’s a great program,” says 
    Deputy State Director of the Drug Police Alliance Laura Thomas. “Once 
    you can bring people into your program, make them feel respected, 
    taken care of, then they’re more likely to come back and get on HIV 
    meds and want to be engaged and taking care of their health.”
    A spokesman for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the mayor is not 
    supportive of the idea. Department of Public Health Director Barbara 
    Garcia also shut down the idea saying that if the idea came to her she 
    would say, “absolutely no, we are not going to distribute crack 
    pipes.”
    Needle exchanges faced similar controversy when they were first 
    started, but now San Francisco gives out 2.7 million syringes a year.
    A needle exchange program seemed outrageous at first but now it is 
    widely accepted by many as a means to prevent the spread of disease.
    The HPPC made a formal recommendation to the city’s health department 
    but city officials are nervous at the thought of handing out illegal 
    drug paraphernalia.
    To try to alleviate those concerns, the HPPC is studying all the 
    issues with starting such a program, including the fact that 
    Page 2 of 2 - possession of crack pipes is against the law.
    Crack pipe distribution programs have been going on in Vancouver, 
    British Columbia for several months, but they’ve taken a different 
    approach there.
    In what is considered Canada’s poorest zip code, the Portland Hotel 
    Society’s Drug Users Resource Centre is operating two vending 
    machines that sell crack pipes for 25 cents. Resource Center director 
    Kailin See justifies this by saying, “Making illegal drug use safer 
    for addicts eliminates some of the roadblocks towards seeking treatment.
    You have to have treatment, you have to have detox, you have to have 
    safe spaces to use your drugs of choice and you have to have safe and 
    clean supplies.”
    In 2011, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority launched a free crack-pipe 
    pilot program that distributed 60,000 pipes per year in the downtown 
    eastside.
    So, in this liberal utopian fantasyland, in order to save people from 
    the horrible death of HIV, we should give them free crack pipes so 
    they can kill themselves with years of drug use instead.
    When a city distributes free crack pipes or syringes isn’t it just 
    enabling destructive behavior?
    The next step in this process would be skipping the paraphernalia and 
    just giving away the drugs.
    Possession of crack and crack paraphernalia is illegal in every state 
    but maybe incremental back door drug legalization is the ultimate goal 
    here.
    There is no evidence that handing out sanitary crack pipes will 
    prevent the spread of disease or encourage infected users to seek 
    medical treatment.
    There are many other HIV and drug abuse interventions that could and 
    should be explored before ever considering this.
    Let’s not forget, all of these “free” crack pipes are to be paid 
    for with taxpayer money.
    Before you dismiss this as never happening outside of San Francisco, 
    remember what happens in San Francisco doesn’t always stay in San 
    Francisco.
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