Did I tell you that I once worked on a movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman? Capote was mostly shot in Winnipeg in 2004, and I was an extra on the picture for a couple of days.
Hoffman was one of those actors we tended to marvel at. His death from what appears to have been a heroin overdose has shocked the world of film and theatre once again. Hopefully it will also prompt renewed conversation about how the problem of addiction is handled.
We have come a long way. Just over 60 years ago, a young actor named Robert Mitchum was sure that his promising career was finished when he was busted for smoking marijuana and sent to jail. Today, Mary Jane is legal in both of the states that competed for the Super Bowl this year.
The leading argument against legalizing or decriminalizing pot has always been the thought that it’s a ‘gateway drug’ that may inevitably lead a smoker to move to stronger things like cocaine and eventually heroin. We stopped throwing heroin addicts in jail a long time ago, but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that one to become legal anywhere.
It’s a horribly difficult addiction to break, and communities on the prairies are among the places where harm reduction has become one of the favoured approaches. Heroin users have access to clean needles to at least reduce the danger of them being infected with HIV or Hepatitis.
In countries like England, they can have access to ‘free heroin’ with the hope that the addict will eventually find a way to break free. Critics of this approach argue that free heroin and ‘safe injection sites’ do nothing more than enable the problem to continue and get worse.
Overshadowing everything is the thought that the trade in illegal drugs is controlled by very nasty , deadly criminals.
“Just Say No” would be a much nicer solution, but unfortunately it’s never that simple.
I’m Roger Currie