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Ron Upshaw: Safe drug-use sites are viable but minor piece of the puzzle

A Seattle group is reportedly planning to open a safe-consumption site where people could inject and smoke hard drugs under medical supervision. (AP)

While KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw may not be advocating for the legalization of all drugs, he does believe that their prohibition has made the abuse worse.

That’s why he’s not opposed to the creation of safe injection sites around Seattle, even if they are only part of the solution.

“I think we’re going to find that this is a viable path but it’s only one piece of the puzzle, and in a lot of ways, it’s the least important piece of the puzzle because if you don’t have the other things that orbit around this injection site, then all you’re doing is enabling people to take drugs,” he said.

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The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance is planning to open a safe-consumption site in Seattle where individuals could inject and smoke hard drugs, such as methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, under medical supervision, according to The Seattle Times. It would be the first public-use site in the country.

Upshaw points to success stories for these types of sites in Vancouver, B.C. and Portugal as anecdotal proof that the prohibition of the substances are what create black markets of contaminated drugs with varying degrees of potencies. He says a doctor prescribing an opioid similar to heroin would be a much better option.

“As a society we’ve labeled it,” he said. “We’ve said this one is good and that a doctor can give it to me; this one is bad and we’re going to make a gangster sell it to me on the street. The only difference is the one from the doctor has some standards of purity and dosage so you know what you’re taking. The one from the gangster could be cut with flour or cement chips.”

Co-host Don O’Neill’s primary concern with the sites is how they could lead to unequal prosecuting of the law. For example, why should a sober person with a bag of cocaine in his or her car be locked up while users are fitted with a get-out-of-jail-free card?

“I think you have to even the playing field on that,” he said. “I don’t think you can take someone and throw them in jail on a DUI or cocaine possession and wreck their life, but you’re going to allow people to go into a safe injection site and law enforcement is going to look the other way.”

Ron and Don on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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