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The Opioid Crisis: Drug Laws Killed My Friend

January 22, 2018

Why do we have an opioid crisis? Here is a tragic example: Eight years ago, the supporters of our Orwellian drug laws caused the death of my friend Christopher Smith. He was shot at point blank range while he sat in his car on a south Phoenix street, probably trying to buy or sell drugs. He did not have to die. He should not have died. Christopher should have had a place he could go to get help and to get a safe dose of something that would relieve his pain and anxiety. Our insane drug laws prevent this. Anyone buying or selling “unapproved” drugs is a criminal and, consequently, like my friend Christopher, is forced into the criminal world.

Christopher was not some low life marginally productive member of society. He was well educated, a kind and generous man who had a lovely wife and three beautiful daughters. I knew him as chief of staff for the Arizona State Senate and later as executive director of the Goldwater Institute. He had some medical issues that were complicated by an automobile accident and I am sure that he was in a lot of pain that he did not believe could be adequately addressed by legal drugs. In a free society no government agency should be empowered to tell someone what medications they can put into their own body. But, even if you agree with some drug regulation, surely there should be safe houses where someone like Christopher could go.

Little has changed in the last eight years regarding regulation of opioids. How many more deaths of innocent victims like Christopher must we endure before we come to our senses and adopt a less authoritarian and more humanitarian approach?

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