Needle Exchanges: Change We Can Believe In

March 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

Just a few months ago, many of us were fretting over the rumors that Jim Ramstad, an opponent of needle-exchange programs, would be Obama’s new pick for drug czar. 

Just yesterday, the Obama administration indicated unequivocally that it would abandon the ‘war on drugs’ paradigm for needle exchanges in favor of a harm reduction approach.

Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said of the shift:

“These statements really indicate a significant shift,” he said. “It’s not just a repudiation of the Bush administration, it’s a repudiation of the Clinton administration. This signals a new direction in US drug policy. This is about all the leading scientists and all the public health people pushing in the same direction and Obama saying he’s putting science above politics.”

This increases my optimism about the nomination of Gil Kerlikowske for drug czar, a man who – though a police chief – has reportedly complied with the local needle exchange programs and marijuana deprioritization. Hopefully, the United States will soon follow Seattle’s lead and adopt a ‘lowest priority’ policy with regard to marijuana as well.

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