The fact that San Francisco has descended into a hellhole of the state and local governments’ own making is no secret. Crime rates remain out of control and until Chesa Boudin’s recent ouster in a recall, few people were being prosecuted. One of the other, equally serious problems in the City by the Bay is the ongoing epidemic of drug overdoses. Many outdoor areas have turned into open-air illegal drug markets and “safe injection sites” where addicts shoot up sometimes lethal concoctions without any intervention by law enforcement. Illegal drug trafficking leads to crimes committed by those needing money for drugs. It’s a vicious circle.

So this is bad, right? As it turns out, the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle agrees. In an editorial this week, they acknowledge all of the problems I just listed. But after noting how badly things are going, they reverse course and advise people to stop blaming the liberal policies of Boudin and the city government in general for the large number of drug overdose deaths. Instead, they’re blaming Walgreens. Yes, you read that correctly. The chain of pharmacies (which are robbed so often in the San Francisco area that several of them have closed down and moved away) is to blame for all of the drug addicts overdosing in the streets. You really can’t make this stuff up.

The current rhetoric of accountability and personal responsibility surrounding drugs and addiction — and the crimes like petty theft that support them — is seductive. It has a kind of common-sense appeal that’s easy to rally behind. San Francisco got in this mess because we were too lenient. Getting tough, therefore, is the natural solution.

But this explanation isn’t just facile, it’s untrue. And the past few weeks have offered newfound clarity on why. Walgreens, once again, is in the middle of the story, but this time as an alleged perpetrator of crime.

According to a lawsuit filed by the City Attorney’s Office, for more than a decade, Walgreens was the largest distributor of opioids in San Francisco — and was a key player in setting off the current iteration of our crisis. The suit claims Walgreens irresponsibly distributed prescription opioids to San Franciscans, contributing to a rise in fatal overdoses, addiction and public drug use.

Before addressing the root complaint being made here, I would first point out that even San Francisco’s extremely liberal populace eventually figured out that the municipal government’s failed experiments in social reconditioning were at the heart of the problem. That’s why the Democrats and left-leaning independents in the city voted Chesa Boudin out of office, along with the seven or eight remaining Republicans in the city. The Chronicle‘s editorial board might consider trying to read the room a bit better.

As to the reason that there are so many addicts dying in the streets, there is no question that San Francisco, like far too many parts of the country, has experienced an epidemic of opioid addiction. Many prescription drugs in that category were being handed out like candy for far too long. You’ll get no argument from me there.

But how do you make the leap from saying that to claiming that Walgreens in particular bears responsibility? Obviously, the pharmacies stock large quantities of these drugs and dispense them. But nobody is supposed to be able to obtain those drugs without a prescription. And when a patient walks in with a valid prescription, the pharmacist is obligated to fill it. We can debate whether there are too many doctors writing prescriptions for patients without ensuring they weren’t developing addictions. That seems rather obvious. But if that’s the case, spill your venom in the direction of the American Medical Association or the individual doctors, not the pharmacy.

The Chronicle claims that there was “no real oversight in monitoring or reporting suspicious prescriptions.” If they can demonstrate that Walgreens was accepting fake prescriptions when they should have known better, perhaps there is a case to be made. But the editors go on to note that millions of doses of opioids “were filled through San Francisco Walgreens from dozens of doctors who were under active investigation or had suspended licenses.”

Is the implication here that it was the responsibility of the pharmacists working at Walgreens to do a background check on the doctors who signed the prescriptions whenever a patient showed up at the counter to get their refill? Do you have any idea how long that would take? People would end up waiting weeks to get their prescriptions filled.

At what point will these liberal lecturers stop complaining about Walgreens making “too much money” or filling orders as required and focus their blame on the actual bad actors? If there are corrupt doctors out there issuing illegal prescriptions, send someone out to arrest them. If legally operating doctors are writing too many prescriptions for opioids, take that up with the AMA and suspend their licenses. But blaming Walgreens for the number of pills being issued is like blaming the hardware supply store when someone who bought their products runs over your cat.

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