By Tom Temprano
Mayor Ed Lee and his Department of Public Health have been exercising poor etiquette in their refusal to pass the pipe over the last couple weeks. After the City’s HIV Prevention Planning Council unanimously voted to explore distributing crack pipes as a harm reduction strategy, the mayor’s spokesperson and the head of DPH tried to put the kibosh on the plan, saying they didn’t even want to explore the issue.
While the distribution of crack pipes by the city is expected to be controversial, to not even entertain the recommendations made by the panel of experts that his own administration has put together to, you know, make recommendations about these kinds of things, seems way too reactionary for the leaders of a city that should be on the vanguard of HIV and harm reduction policy.
Even the SFPD is potentially supportive of the idea, and it should be noted that this panel of experts isn’t blowing smoke (I’m sorry but I had to) with the recommendation. Similar programs in Vancouver (swoon) and other cities have proved that distributing pipes is a great way to get drug users connected with potentially live-saving service providers and that doing so actually lowers the number of users who inject drugs intravenously – thereby decreasing the risk of HIV transmission.
Fortunately for Mayor D.A.R.E., an evidence-based approach is not necessary to decision making — as demonstrated by his giddy enthusiasm for Stop And Frisk and his recent proposal to establish “Drug Free Zones” around the Public Library. Much like D.A.R.E, such zones don’t reduce drug use in any way, and don’t even come with the benefit of owning an ironic t-shirt later in life. All they do is result in disproportionate numbers of people of color ending up in our jail system. (more after the jump)