War on drugs, peace on drugs –  

Nov. 14, 2020 – But despite the crisis growing so much more dire, the discussions at City Hall and in San Francisco’s criminal justice system sound like the same old scratchy broken records. There’s a lot of blame, bickering and endless debate. And on the rare occasion a new, worthwhile idea is agreed upon, it often leads nowhere.

The model, as I’ve written before, is Portugal, where small amounts of drugs are decriminalized, but people addicted to them are urged into treatment and people who sell them face real consequences. Neither of those commonsense approaches exists in San Francisco, where treatment is hard to access and drug dealers have the run of the sidewalk.

Before Portugal decriminalized drugs, it saw an average of one overdose every day. By 2016, the annual total had plunged to 27. In an entire country of more than 10 million people. We’re seeing the same number in our little city every two weeks.

San Francisco officials have said they like Portugal’s model, too, but they’ve never moved to replicate it. They seem to prefer talking about smaller solutions and then forgetting about them.

Remember the much-discussed meth sobering center planned for Turk and Jones streets? It never opened, largely because of the pandemic. Remember the safe injection site that has been widely supported at City Hall for at least four years? It still doesn’t exist because the Trump administration threatened to arrest those who participate.

Remember that much-debated conservatorship law to make it a little easier to compel people who are severely addicted to drugs and who create a danger to themselves or others to accept treatment? It was enacted last year, and guess how many people the city has helped with it? Zero.

Officials are still calling for drug treatment on demand 23 years after then-Mayor Willie Brown promised it. People addicted to drugs in the city still can’t access treatment as soon as they’re ready to accept it, and there are too few incentives to push them into it.

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