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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Like Drugs? Like Unions? Join the Drug-Users Union.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 12:01 AM

On Tuesday, we reported how, in San Francisco, even drug-users have a union. The nascent drug-users union got a major jump-start this year thanks to a one-year, $35,000 grant from the Drug Policy Alliance. The union exists, ostensibly, "to organize drug-users and help them have a voice and a say

in local politics," according to Laura Thomas, the Drug Policy Alliance's deputy state director.

Or at least it will -- once it gets a few drug-using members. Alexandra Goldman, the drug-user union's organizer, notes that she just held her first meetings in February and the union is still setting up the process of who can join and who cannot.

For example, it has not yet been determined if those who regularly use legal drugs -- even for unintended uses -- can join. "There are different drug-users unions internationally. Some want their users to be using illegal drugs," said Goldman. "Others don't specify."

In any event, if you think this is the union for you -- let them know. You can write an e-mail to

Goldman, without the benefit of an extant union membership, was not able to answer specifics about how her organization will go about making life easier for San Francisco's drug-using population. But she was quick to note that she'll be doing far more than simply asking city government for a handout. (You can insert your own joke here about the city being so broke you saw your district supervisor running off with your television).

"There are a lot of things I think the community can provide for itself," she said. For example, she'd like to see more peer counseling of the sort where long-term intravenous drug-users give advice to newbies on practices that will "keep them safe."

Goldman comes from a community organizing background -- not, it would seem, a hardcore drug-abusing one. She is a former tenant organizer with the Central City SRO Collaborative. When asked if she's a self-identified drug-user, she replied, "I was waiting for you to ask that! That's not something I want in the newspaper." She did note, however, that she was not marginally housed while working with SRO tenants, and was brought in -- and paid -- by the Drug Policy Alliance for her organizational skills. Make of that what you will.

When asked to counter those who are quizzical about her goals of "making San Francisco a better, healthier place for people who are using drugs" -- and, instead, maybe making drug-users stop -- she said it's all about "keeping people breathing."

"If your goal is to save people's lives and keep people healthy," she said, "the fact some of the drugs they're doing are arbitrarily illegal is somewhat irrelevant."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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