Bold approach to relief

It’s hard to justify putting money in the pockets of heroin dealers as an act of social justice — imagining positive change as a result sounds even stranger.

In his September VICE article, Joseph Cox covered the bold marketing scheme of Copenhagen resident Michael Olsen, operator of Illegal! Magazine.

The name of the game is creating a more stable, productive environment for addicts to gain funding in hopes of getting them back on the right track. Those who served no communal purpose now have a function.

Sure, the first question that comes to mind is: how does facilitating a drug habit benefit anyone — especially the user?

The short answer is instead of committing crimes such as robbery or prostitution to get the drug they need to survive, Copenhagen residents previously considered too far gone from heroin use can turn to Olson and become certified vendors of Illegal! — flipping the $1.80 magazines for roughly $5.

Yes, it sounds counterintuitive considering heroin trafficking will rise in the short run, but there’s no doubt in my mind that constraining the need for violent and sexual crimes will stifle usage down the road.

It’s dicey, dangerous and genius all at the same time.

Putting the idea in perspective, though, I’m sad to say this sort of outside-of-the-box thinking is anything but an American approach to aiding those in need of change.

Is the average American drug addict viewed in any other lens than ‘criminal’ before being rushed to prison? Was that individual a person before having their character limited to negative traits at a dehumanizing extreme?

Illegal! shouldn’t be mistaken for anything charitable. It’s beginning to be accepted as business as usual for the city of Copenhagen, so why not tap this sort of resource in other scenarios?

Thankfully America doesn’t suffer from the same drug epidemics as the eastern world, but it’s easy to see ways in which Illegal!-esque operations could translate to America, even the Eau Claire community.

An American equivalent you may have encountered are former addicts or troubled individuals representing churches or rehabilitation clinics trying to push intrinsically useless products like over-priced baked goods or floral arrangements. The truth is, nobody needs these things, and I don’t want to fund your religion. But I do want to read news pieces.

News is a marketable, intellectual product the public could use more of — its circulation can help prevent crime, and in our city’s case, struggles such as poverty.

Though I don’t believe enabling drug users is a moral dilemma the majority of Americans could look past, I do see the project for what it is: a way out of a deadly habit and a way into enhancing communication.

What if Volume One was operated in this way? Of course, Volume One a free publication, but this sort of thinking could give way to a new media outlet in Eau Claire, while fighting real issues the city faces. It’s a clear win-win.