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Elected official calls for decriminalizing heroin

Robert Jubinville of Milton, one of the state's eight elected governor's councilors, says it's time to stop throwing heroin addicts into prison.

"Heroin addiction, any addiction, is a disease, and needs to be treated, not punished," Jubinville says in a statement. "For years, we have been banging our heads throwing money into our corrections system to punish addicts. It hasn't worked. Let's try something different. ... Inmates simply do not receive adequate drug rehabilitation and are at a higher risk of using when they are released, making the rate of recidivism high."

Jubinville added he also wants the state to take over all the local methadone clinics - and expand the availability of the drug to every courthouse in the state. He applauded Gloucester's decision to not bring criminal charges against addicts who go to police to seek help, but said that not only should be expanded statewide but should also be applied to addicts who do not approach police.

Governor's councilors, who serve on a body originally created to act as a check on colonial governors, normally receive little public attention as they sign off on the state's bills and vote on the governor's judicial appointments and parole recommendations.

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Ones that are immune to local politician grandstanding?

Otherwise, this is still just dumping addicts on the street without treatment. There needs to be a requirement that every community either have a center or team with another community to provide one.

Medford would have had one years ago if it weren't for certain fools in city government capitalizing on ignorant and reactionary fear. However, treatment expands well beyond the initial intake phase and that needs to be supported.

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Sure I'm pro pot legalization, but not so sure about heroin decriminalization. It's just hard for me, when I go to my small hometown in NH and many faces I went to school with or worked with all strung out now cuz of opiate addiction. Not sure if this is the right way to do it.

I understand their point, but like you said, we need more treatment centers to aid people in order to do this. Otherwise, like you said, we're just dumping addicts back onto the streets and what good is that?

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However, there needs to be more done to backup the initial contact.

Also, some of the worst hit areas don't have convenient courthouses for people to seek help at. We need a contact in every community to direct people into both short-term detox and long-term assistance at public expense.

This will be far cheaper than using jails for the purpose, but the support has to exist.

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It's just hard for me, when I go to my small hometown in NH and many faces I went to school with or worked with all strung out now cuz of opiate addiction. Not sure if this is the right way to do it.

So IOW, even though you don't think you do, you still subconsciously hold onto the idea that criminalizing something reduces its occurrence. The point of decriminalizing drugs isn't to necessarily say it's okay to do them (although in the case of pot, that is often the argument from many people); the point is to allow people who have become addicts to admit they've a problem and seek treatment without fear that they, or others involved in their drug use, will get in trouble. Decriminalize heroin and those people you went to school with or worked with can much more easily and safely get help than they can now.

Treating the use of addictive drugs as a criminal issue in an effort to reduce the incidence of it is about as sensible as criminalizing contracting an infectious disease.

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Aka, ending the war on drugs. Can’t imagine the cost savings of diverting all the money burned on prisons, courts, lost economic activity when those convicted get ripped out of their livelihood or are blacklisted from any gainful employment afterward, or the kids that generally suffer even worse when families are torn apart.

Not to mention, there’s more than likely a silent majority of heroin users who actually live capable lives (yet don’t speak out for obvious reasons) like any other drug. Ok, maybe not Krokodil.

Yet prosecutors, police/prison unions have a vice-like grip on making sure that the battle they will eventually lose goes on as long as possible. (not too far off from our education situation now that I think about it)

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Well said. As long as the profit motive remains (private prisons, asset seizure, job security, etc), we'll continue to get false dichotomies like this one. Heroin for all, or heroin for none! Full legalization (with no funding for treatment centers), or billions of dollars spent prosecuting and imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders! It's like playing a BioWare game with no neutral choices: either murder the orphans, or buy them all ice cream cones.

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One obvious incremental change we urgently need is the repeal of MGL Chapter 94C, Section 35: "Unlawful presence at a place where heroin is kept or being in the company of a person in possession thereof".

That law singles out our most vulnerable drug users (for heroin users are those most at risk for fatal overdose) for an unwarranted degree of social isolation. A horrified mother who has desperately and repeatedly sought treatment for an adult child on heroin cannot legally accompany her loved one if she learns his "errand" involves meeting his drug dealer, nor can she later legally sit near him for safety's sake, Narcan and cell phone at the ready, while he shoots up his latest fix. Instead the law would compel her to kick him out or walk away, leaving him alone and unattended, potentially to overdose needlessly and die alone in some back alley.

If we change only one part of the law, this should be it. Indeed, it would make far more sense to criminalize the abandonment of any person whom we have reason to believe may be in possession of heroin and about to shoot up. (I realize that the law provides some protection for those calling in overdoses, but this relies on a chance encounter after the fact.)

This unusually stringent section of our drug law (written specifically for heroin only) also makes it more difficult for a user who wants to get clean to be honest with his remaining friends and loved ones about his inevitable relapses, which further hampers open discussion about the extent of the user's problem and his treatment options. The addict's perceived need to lie to those who care about him only serves to prolong the problem.

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I disagree with your take that the police unions somehow want junkies roaming about. Most cops feel frustrated about dealing with the same people over and over and over and over again. Cops are all for addicts getting help. They just want to have a rehab system they would believe in.

I think the major issue here is this cannot be half-assed. A lot of these junkies that are on the streets are also stealing stuff, whether it be shoplifting or breaking into houses and/or cars. You cannot just say "hey go to the clinic three times a day." you need a facility where they stay that is designed around rehab. Going the cheap out patient route is just a one way ticket back to a jail cell and a circular system.

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I like the idea of public management of the methadone clinic system, but doubt that it will work. The current system makes methadone clinics legal drug dealers. Recovery is there for those who want it, not necessarily for those who need it. Overall medication replacement therapy (MAT) (methadone, buprenorphine and Vivitrol) is the government's way to justify their THEORY that addiction is a brain disease. If this might even be remotely true then to repair a damaged brain one needs to change the neurotransmission circuits that drugs have damaged. MAT keeps everything status quo, and you don't change those circuits that crave the dopamine. Check out Marc Lewis's new book

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Not necessarily status quo. Who cares if it makes the methadone clinics "drug dealers"? To compare them to street dealers and the black market of drug trade wouldn't be apt. Same old arguments, here: less crime related drug transactions/activity (aside from the transaction itself, and possession, but let's not be pedantic), more oversight and monitoring of drug quality, etc. That doesn't sound like status quo.

When you take a more mature approach to it, you can do more "damage control". You can improve public health and safety while offering a legal, positive means for those suffering from addiction to face their issues. Even more so when they have the trained professionals as advisers. You won't get that from the guy selling to you on the street.

It's not perfect, but it'd be a start.

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check out those not street dealers. The land of the walking dead..

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aka The Methadone Mile aka The Exodus of The Methadonians... seriously, Mass & Melnea and that whole area is just methadone central, and i am sure a number of those people are not there with the intention of quitting, they are just there taking something that is free and will keep them even for a while. Outpatient heroin rehab is a not great plan

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Just curious. What is wrong with providing Vivitrol?
It is monthly injection also used for alcohol dependence.

It is opiate antagonist not an agonists. Aka it blocks the effects of opiates rather than acting as another form of an opiate.

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Vivitrol holds you semi safe while you hopefully heal from the inside out.In and of itself it does NOTHING. Many who use Vivitrol to keep them from using opioids use cocaine as it like methadone does not replace the need to get high. Take a look though at the Sinclair method of naltrexone use

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What will they want legalized next, drinking and driving?

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That means it won't be a felony to use heroin, nor will people risk being charged with one for seeking treatment.

Not the same as legalizing it, which would make dealing the drug legal and make it available retail.

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Swirly is making sense to me and I agree with her. Was that a pig that just flew past my window?

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A dealer no longer has to worry about getting busted for mere possession under a certain threshold. The dealer can game it so they are always under the threshold. Unless a dealer is caught in the act, they are home free. Am I understanding it right?

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What's next? Decriminalizing drinking and driving?

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That was dumb enough the first time.

The drinking part is already legalized. It is the driving while drunk that is the problem.

Just as decriminalizing opiate abuse simply makes it a non-crime to use opiates. It won't stop the prosecution of property crimes resulting from opiate abuse.

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At least the first nine or ten times you get caught. After that they REALLY start to frown at you.

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Mmmm and yes I still have to hide my use from everyone I know...?

Seriously, if it were decriminalized, I might be able to talk my folks. Maybz. And talking about it is the first step to getting help.

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Heroin doesn't cause car crashes. Conversely, it causes many folks to sit in front of the TV or fall asleep early, causing a decrease in traffic.

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It doesn't?
http://m.wcvb.com/news/mother-teen-crash-victim-had-heroin-needle-in-arm...

So, you don't talk to your folks about your heroin use, hide it from everyone you know, or try to seek help, because you're afraid of going to jail?

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I like this idea. I don't think anybody has ever said to themselves "I'd love to start doing heroin if only it weren't for that threat of jail time." Drug addiction is a public health issue, not a criminal issue.

I completely agree with Swirly though that there also needs to be adequate treatment facilities in place.

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Criminal laws aren't only in place to deter wrongful conduct; as you note, they often do a pretty crappy job of that. Criminal laws are also the expression of society that certain conduct is unacceptable. Decriminalization is a tacit expression that conduct is acceptable, or at least not-so-bad, like a speeding ticket.

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When society allows laws based solely on notions of morality, there is always the chance that the thing you like doing, and which you consider harmless, will someday become an imprisonable offense because a busybody with a tight ass got elected. It's a lousy thing on which to base legislation.

The best book I've ever read on the subject was written by the late Peter McWilliams. Entitled Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do, I'd suggest it should be required reading for all legislators, except making that a law would certainly go against the spirit of the book :-)

By the way, the author died via what many would consider a direct result of such laws. While living in California, where medical marijuana was legal, he was using it to combat side effects of nausea from medications he had to take for AIDS-related non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Busted for possession and intent to distribute, by the feds, he was released from custody on condition that he not use medical marijuana or else he would forfeit $250,000 bail (which had been posted via a mortgage on his parent's home, as I recall.) He complied with the condition. As a probable result, he died from suffocation caused by inhalation of his own vomit.[1]

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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You think that nobody has ever not tried heroin because of the legal (and therefor social) consequences of it?

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Studies have shown that incarceration is not a deterrent to drug use.

http://www.ccjrc.org/pdf/Correctional_and_Sentencing_Reform_for_Drug_Off...

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May I please have my wife's grandmother's jewelry back? Can I get back all my personal effects that were stolen including every Red Sox ticket stub I have going back to 1975? (They meant a lot to me). Can I get back the watch that was given to me by my now deceased grandmother? Say what you will about things versus the addiction of others, but I care a lot more about my things, trite as they may be, than some useless junkie.

The person who broke into my house in 2003 is getting out at the end of the month after four stints in MCI-Concord and other jails for feeding his habit with B&E's and other crimes. Decriminalization is not going to help this dope. He will use again and will end up in jail again. He crawled under the treatment train and doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything other than his high and all the sanctimony here is not going to change that.

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Here's the thing though. You said yourself that this guy will most likely use again when he gets out of jail and go right back to breaking into peoples' houses. Prison clearly isn't helping this country's drug problem and may in fact be exacerbating it. Don't you think it's time to start looking at other options for cleaning up this mess?

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Good news, no one wants to decriminalize breaking and entering!

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Decrim will make it cheaper by reducing the expense burden inflicted upon dealers who get caught. Fewer people will resort to illicit means of fundraising.

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Treatment for addicts, Iranian necktie (construction crane) for dealers.

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solely for possessing small amounts (small, personal use amounts)? No. They should not be imprisoned for simply being under the influence, minus of course, while driving, being a caretaker / parent, performing some function that puts other's lives under your control,etc.

The above are generally not the reason why they end locked up:

Parole violations

Outstanding warrants on other charges

Habitual criminal activity

Committing a criminal act while in possession of 'small amounts', or under the influence.

Trafficking in heroin

Most addicts commit crimes to support their heroin addiction. This is why they end locked up.

And 'solving' the problem of unacceptable and criminal behavior by simply allowing addicts to wander around high won't work, either. Addiction to narcotics like heroin greater lowers inhibitions and impulse control. This is true of other drugs, including many commonly prescribed drugs, and of course, alcohol.

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Anon mentions concern about "simply allowing addicts to wander around high", but those most afflicted by the problem are only able to achieve a "high" with dangerously large doses of opiates, which of course will leave them nodding off or worse. The opiate-addicted person most tempted to commit a property crime or to become violent is the one who is facing impending withdrawal. Opiate withdrawal syndrome activates the same part of the brain responsible for our sense of panic when we are faced with a sudden life-threatening emergency, such as drowning. The addict typically becomes increasingly convinced on a visceral, primal level that he will die without a "fix" to help him feel merely normal again- not high. This is when a desperate, agitated addict may rationalize theft or robbery.

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