Well, the county picked its poison: vaping. The other two choices were marijuana and heroin. That is, when the county’s health director and the do-gooders on the Board of Supervisors decided to pretend they were going “all in” on harm reduction, they declared a holy jihad on vaping by way of eliminating said products from the marketplace. However, they did the exact opposite on cannabis and, indirectly, heroin.
The supes banned the sale of vaping products in the county despite the indication that the recent spate of teen deaths involving vaping had to do with black market vaping products used to inhale such things as marijuana derivatives. At this very same hearing, the Board of Supervisors, without any hesitation whatsoever, approved an ongoing free syringe needle exchange for heroin addicts — again, in the name of harm reduction.
To fully appreciate what is going on here, we must all come to terms with the fact that we don’t live in a black-and-white world when it comes to the use of drugs. For instance, there is no doubt that vaping is popular with young people and that vaping products that contain nicotine can facilitate addiction. However, when the county’s health director got on her high horse to warn the community about the dangers of vaping, she left out two important details.
First, and foremost, vaping is a safer alternative than cigarettes, and many cigarette smokers have been able to quit smoking cigarettes by switching to vaping. Second, by banning something that is now legal, the county’s action will drive people to the black market — the same market that still sells cannabis and heroin.
To complicate matters even further, one of the reasons America is seeing a rise in opioid overdoses has to do with the success in shutting down pill mills pushing drugs like OxyContin. In essence, heroin has become easier and cheaper to obtain. Moreover, communities like San Francisco now have clinics where people can shoot up under medical supervision — with clean needles, of course.
With regard to IV drug users, the county has authorized the free needle distribution for decades, with no stipulations that the program demonstrate it helped at least some people get clean and sober. This is because the harm reduction focus is on the transmission of hepatitis, rather than the deleterious effects of IV drug abuse; henceforth, the public health director doesn’t question the efficacy of the program as it relates to drug abuse. Hence, the hearing on vaping got all the attention, while the needle exchange program was completely ignored.
Finally, how can our local supervisors miss the elephant in the room? That is, the marijuana derivatives have been the apparent cause of illness and deaths, yet these same supervisors have countenanced some of the largest marijuana operations in the state. Despite the numerous hearings conducted on facilitating marijuana grows, I can only recall one report from the public health director warning about the negative consequences of smoking recreational marijuana. Perhaps that is because the health director’s high horse is a one-trick pony.