At first thought, the idea of a controlled environment for intravenous drug addicts to obtain needles and syringes and get high, may seem completely absurd. It is understandable to think that these safe injection sites are wrong, especially when looked at as a logical syllogism such as:
Possessing and using drugs is a crime
Criminals go to jail
Therefore, drug addicts should be put in jail.
Many argue that providing a place for drug addicts to continue using is logically and ethically wrong, as it is encouraging illegal activity with no legal intervention or consequences. People who oppose these safe injection sites also believe that it isn’t right to enable these people to continue using, rather than helping them decrease the amount of drugs they are taking or getting off of the drugs all together. To some people, giving addicts a place to consume illegal, dangerous intravenous drugs is equal to giving people with chronic depression a place where they can “safely” kill themselves. The only safe place that these people believe that drug addicts belong is in jail and/or a rehabilitation program.
Immanuel Kant would also agree that safe injection sites and harm reduction programs are not ethical, and that addicts should be sent to jail. With his idea of ethics and universal law, Kant would say that if it was ethical to let addicts engage in illegal activity without consequence, giving people a place to engage in illegal activity without consequence should become a universal law. In simple terms: we would be able to give murderers a “safe” place to kill and robbers a “safe” place to steal. We can all agree that doing so would probably be the furthest thing from ethical, thus making safe injection sites immoral.
John Stuart Mill and Utilitarians, on the other hand, would look at all of the positive outcomes of safe injection sites and harm reduction programs, and deem it moral, even if it does allow illegal activity to take place. Many people, including utilitarians, realize that illegal drug use will always happen no matter how many measures we take to discourage it. Although many times, jail time and/or rehabilitation programs are necessary, there will still be people out the that will continue to use drugs. Because of this, safe injection sites and needle exchange programs will be able to help out the most people and make the best out of bad situations. Utilitarians believe in choosing the option with the most positive effects for society, and the fact that harm reduction programs help the most amount of people, and massively reduce overdoses, drug crimes, and diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, it is quite clear that it is widely supported by Utilitarians.
Governments find it extremely difficult to pick a side of this argument, and are reluctant to implement these programs because of all of the ethical issues that come with them. Should our resources be spent on a program that will have a bigger societal effect, but encourage illegal activity, or should they be spent on programs that will get people off of illegal drugs, but will help a smaller amount of people?