San Francisco Embraced a New Religion: Drug Normalization

San Francisco, CA, USADrugs are destroying San Francisco’s most densely populated and desirable neighborhoods, as more and more addicts, many of them homeless, fill the streets. Politicians and activists are pushing “harm reduction,” which, in a clinical sense, means a “set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use,” such as overdose or the transmission of disease. But in a contemporary context, it also means “a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.”

Harm reduction, originally a controversial public-health measure, has become a religion among advocates, even as fears that the practice would normalize drug use have been borne out. Organizations like the San Francisco Drug Users Union demand “a safe environment where people can use & enjoy drugs” and a “positive image of drug users to engender respect within our community and from outside our community.” True believers dominate City Hall as well as a network of affiliated, politicized nonprofits that operate in the city with little oversight or accountability. In this environment, questioning harm reduction or its effects borders on heresy. But are the programs actually helping impoverished addicts? And what is the impact on the community?

The Department of Public Health distributes 4.45 million needles each year to the city’s 22,000 intravenous drug users. Heroin and prescription opioids are the most injected substances, though use of methamphetamines and Fentanyl is on the rise. It’s true that sterile needles reduce the transmission of blood-borne infections, and injecting narcotics under supervision can lower the risk of overdose and death. But harm reduction goes far beyond promoting these kinds of needle-safety measures. For example, At the Crossroads, a nonprofit, assembled “safe snorting kits” for at-risk and homeless youth. Baggies were filled with straws, chopping mats, plastic razor blades, and instruction sheets. Other groups offer crack-cocaine “safe-smoking” kits. A proposal to open “safe injection” sites, opposed by Jerry Brown, is favored by Governor Gavin Newsom, and is likely to succeed.

Harm-reduction efforts are sometimes sold as ways to connect with addicts, offer them other services, and help them get off drugs. But those laudable goals are not really what motivate advocates, who want mostly to remove the stigma surrounding drug use. Addicts may eventually pursue treatment or stop using on their own, but a central principle of harm-reduction theory is accepting and respecting drug use. As a result, an astonishing number of addicts on San Francisco streets hover on the edge of death, despite a continuous supply of clean needles.

Visit city neighborhoods ranging from the iconic Union Square and the Financial District to historically troubled areas such as the Tenderloin, Civic Center, and South of Market, and the unintended consequences of harm reduction become hard to ignore. The advocates have certainly succeeded in reducing stigma—it’s easy to find people openly injecting into their arms, legs, toes, and necks. Their exposed flesh shows infected sores; they stumble, fall, and pass out. There seem to be more of them, and in worse condition, every day. Addicts congregate on sidewalks, in parks, subway stations, and outside businesses. They die in school doorways.

As for the needles, addicts are encouraged to take as many as they want. The city program does not involve needle exchange, so it offers no incentive properly to dispose of used needles. San Francisco’s streets and transportation system are littered with discarded syringes. After massive public outcry (and streams of embarrassing media reports) about the proliferation of hazardous medical waste on the streets and sidewalks, the city contracted with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, at approximately $1 million per year, to hire a cleanup crew. Roughly 60 percent of the needles now get collected.

Meantime, quality of life in the city continues to erode. Tourism is threatenedretailers close, and families leave. Yet harm-reduction zealots remain adamant in their views. During public discussions about safe-injection sites, they dismiss legitimate concerns about increased drug-dealing, burglaries, violence, and vagrancy. In community meetings, Department of Public Health representatives disregard residents’ misgivings. Typical complaints—“Why are you doing this? Bloody needles are everywhere, people are injecting in front of my kid’s preschool, I’m afraid to take my dog for a walk”—are met with responses that usually begin, “This is harm reduction.” In San Francisco’s brave new world, there is no room for the skeptic.

Huge Drug-Smuggling Tunnel Discovered Beneath U.S. / Mexico Border

As reported by Newsweek:

After one of the longest cross-border tunnels between Mexico and the U.S. was discovered near San Diego earlier this month, several tons of cocaine and marijuana were seized, officials said on Wednesday.

The 2,622-foot-long tunnel started under a house in Tijuana, Mexico and ran to an industrial lot in Otay Mesa, around 20 miles southeast of San Diego, which was advertised as being part of a wooden pallet business, the Associated Press reports. The tunnel was about three feet wide and had rail and lighting systems and ventilation. The tunnel’s exit in the U.S. was a three-foot-diameter hole that was sometimes covered by a large dumpster.

The Tijuana house where the tunnel originated was equipped with a “sophisticated” elevator large enough for eight people, according to the Justice Department. The tunnel is believed to be the longest discovered along the California-Mexico border. …

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Police Face New Rules When Seizing Money From Drug Suspects

As reported by the Orange County Register:

Local police are scrambling to fill the financial hole left in their drug-fighting resources by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to stop allowing them to take cash and property from suspected dealers without warrants or convictions.

Holder’s decision is limited to federal asset forfeiture rules. And for regional task forces that include federal agents – such as the Orange County Regional Narcotics Suppression Program – there may be no change. Local police departments increasingly might use state forfeiture programs that offer more protection for defendants.

Holder said in his announcement last week he was attempting to safeguard civil liberties. …

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Drone Carrying Meth Falls Near Border

As reported by the U-T San Diego:

A small aerial drone crashed about two miles from the U.S. border in Mexico carrying several pounds of methamphetamine, Mexican police said Wednesday.

The discovery at a shopping mall parking lot in Tijuana, within walking distance of the U.S. border crossing, raises the prospect of a new, high-tech front in the struggle between drug gangs and law enforcement.

Tijuana’s metropolitan police department said an anonymous caller reported the crash of the remote control aircraft at about 10 p.m. Tuesday. Officials from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office were seen scouring …

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