THE TRAGEDY IN CRIMINALIZING OPIATES AND SEX WORK
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
August 16, 2015
Today, I heard back-to-back stories news stories of tragedies of criminalization: of heroin overdose deaths and of failure to protect sex workers from violence including exploitation.
Switzerland has long demonstrated that providing inherently non-toxic heroin safely to habitual users resolves problems of overdose, of crime related to supporting a habit and to the violence that goes with illicit opium/heroin trafficking. In the US, we prohibit heroin and provide limited license for use of substitute chemical compounds, from methadone for addiction to patent medicines like Oxycontin, which by their artificial nature are toxic. Many of the heroin overdose deaths now being reported across the US are of people who have run out of insurance and prescriptions for the substitutes, and inject whatever happens to come off the streets in unknown concentrations, with unknown contaminants—hence surprise overdoses and deaths from whatever the heroin is cutt with. With seeds and a piece of fertile ground, virtually anyone can grow the poppies that provide the active ingredient in all natural opiates, beginning with the codeine compounds sold over the counter all over the world outside the US, where true opiates remain in the top list of federally regulated and proscribed and monitored “narcotics and dangerous drugs.” In the US, political, scientific, professional and industrial investment in opium substitution and prohibition rest heavily on the cultural myth that the active ingredient in poppy seeds is more dangerous than the privately produced and invented substitutes we invent and prescribe. The irony is that with controlled dose and clean administration, alongside willow bark (aspirin), poppies freely provide us with safer, less toxic painkillers than all the artificial substances we concoct, sell and prescribe in their place.
Amnesty International has just taken up the cause of many-gendered sex workers the world over to decriminalize what they do for pay, so that they full legal protection from assault, theft and exploitation. Organized political resistance is strong in the US. Resisters want sex workers themselves to be exempt from prosecution, but want other participants in sex for money to remain criminalized, on grounds that they are exploiting women and children in particular. The irony in this position is that it presumes to know better than active sex workers themselves that criminalizing prostitution is good for them.
As a political culture, we are getting over pathologizing and criminalizing sexual orientation and gender identity to save people from themselves and from hurting and contaminating others. May our wars against heroin and prostitution follow the same course. Love and peace, hal