With almost 3 million 18- to 34-year-olds watching each episode of South Park, the young adults on last week’s “Rock the Vote” debate should have at least picked up on one thing, that “Drugs are bad, mmkay?” When the candidates were asked if they had ever smoked marijuana, however, those who said yes (Kerry, Dean and Edwards) were not only applauded, but cheered.

One does not “cheer” for honesty about drug use, one applauds politely. Consequentially, the fact that those three candidates had indeed smoked up at some point in their lives was evidently very appealing to the young voters in the audience. It is not my place to judge those involved, but the reaction to the responses illustrates a disturbing trend in today’s society: illegal drug use is slowly moving toward acceptance, and that must be stopped.

But while there is debate on the legalization of marijuana, no one disputes that heroin, for example, seriously messes people up. With side effects including clogged blood vessels in the lungs and brain, collapsed veins, fatal overdose, the spread of HIV/AIDS and even spontaneous abortions, heroin is incredibly dangerous.

Once again unwilling to do anything that makes sense, the government of Canada has opened a heroin clinic in Vancouver. Staffed with 40 medical personnel and expected to cost $2 million per year, the clinic gives heroin junkies a “safe” place to shoot up – offering sterile needles, spoons, water and medical supervision. As many as 800 addicts are expected everyday. Users inside the clinic are immune from criminal prosecution, but must sign in and are not given or allowed to share drugs once inside.

Needless to say, this is absolutely ludicrous. John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, sees the clinic as “state-sponsored personal suicide.”

Larry Campbell, mayor of Vancouver, responds that what he is “trying to be is reasonable and practical . I’m not supplying drugs. I’m not condoning drugs. But what I am saying is this is an illness. It’s not something you condone or condemn.”

No, Mr. Campbell, illnesses are not something you condone or condemn; they’re something you give treatment for. By allowing heroin addicts to shoot up in a state-sponsored clinic amounts to a de facto tolerance of heroin at the very least, and removes a lot of the responsibility for the consequences of drug use. Want to get high? Come to Vancouver, we’ll let you do smack and then send you on your merry way.

This attempt to be “reasonable and practical” is apparently neither. In a recent survey of 458 heroin addicts, 92 percent expressed an interest in using the clinic. But once informed of Health Canada’s regulations that include prohibitions against sharing drugs and helping inject them, support fell to just 32 percent. Why? According to Dr. Thomas Kerry, co-author of the study, heroin users often pool their money together and split the drugs among themselves. In addition, some addicts cannot safely inject the drugs into their own veins.

Philip Owen, Vancouver’s previous mayor, started lobbying for the clinic in 2000, saying, “It’s pretty obvious you can’t incarcerate your way out of the drug problem. You can’t liberalize your way out of it and just give anybody the drugs they want. You can’t ignore it. So you manage it.” But the only thing this clinic is going to manage to do is assist the destruction of drug user’s lives.

But in fact, Canada is indeed trying to liberalize the drug problem even more. Researchers want to conduct a national experiment, also in Vancouver, that hands out free heroin and methadone to junkies. That’s right, addicts could come to the proposed clinic up to three times a day, seven days a week to get their fix. It plans to give heroin to 88 people, and methadone to 70. One year of free heroin later, users are supposed to “step down” to just methadone or abstain from drugs altogether. This is absolutely insane, especially when considering the clinic’s proposed location is across the street from a daycare center and down the street from an elementary school.

This could be the start of a dangerous trend; how long will it be until we see crack handed out in Monterrey; marijuana given away in San Francisco? It might not be hard for a group of druggies to convince a state legislature or two out west to go along with Canada’s clinics, complaining that they can’t shoot up legally or get free drugs on this side of the border. And what’s next after that?

The question of stiffer penalties versus treatment for drug users remains unanswered as of yet. But the first thing we can do is nip the drug problem at its source: dealers. The government needs to immediately crack down on those who sell and traffic drugs with larger fines and longer jail sentences. Society is being demoralized one drug deal at a time, and the message needs to be sent to those who would profit from it that we will not tolerate it for one second longer. If people are not selling drugs, people are not buying and using drugs.

Injection clinics can also be found in Europe and Australia, but Vancouver’s is the first of its kind in North America. If all the opportunities given to heroin users end up backfiring and cause more problems than they prevent, this will be just one more thing for which we can “Blame Canada.”

Eric Rodawig is a freshman in the College and is the assistant Viewpoint editor of The Hoya.

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