Some of the greatest minds in health science, as well as Nobel laureates and former world leaders are backing a declaration spearheaded by a Vancouver doctor to change the way the West fights its war on drugs.
Dr. Evan Wood, who is in Vienna for the International AIDS Conference, said current policy causes more harm than good because it does nothing to curb drug use and the spread of disease.
Wood is the founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and a researcher at the B.C. Centre For Excellence in HIV-AIDS.
His Vienna Declaration calls for drug policies supported by scientific evidence that reduce harm – like needle exchanges and supervised injection sites – rather than tougher enforcement and sentencing.
Signatories to the declaration include Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of HIV, and former presidents of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.
“There’s been, in the scientific community, a huge discordance between what some governments are trying to do (with policy) and the scientific evidence that exists in terms of the drug problem,” Wood told Metro News by phone from Vienna.
“It’s really going to be the taxpayer who suffers from locking people up and the reality is those types of policies contribute to the spread of HIV.”
Wood said it costs Canadian taxpayers between $250,000 to $500,000 for every case of HIV.
“InSite has been shown to reduce the spread of HIV, prevent overdose deaths and get people into treatment,” he said.
The federal government is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a lower court ruling that is keeping InSite open.
“It’s crazy any government would ignore such a forceful statement coming out to the scientific community,” Wood said.
A group of current and former police officers, judges, prosecutors and prison wardens in the United States yesterday added its endorsement to the Vienna Declaration.
“I spent 34 years on the streets of a big American city fighting the war on drugs,” said former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
“But after more than three decades of seeing the real and detrimental effects of drug prohibition, I can say with certainty that the war on drugs has failed.”