Dope Justice

The provincial government has developed a habit of claiming its hands are tied when asked about action on the Poisoning Massacre. Of course they aren’t: they have decided to let thousands die. Look at their budget. It’s a choice.

But the government, through the solicitor-general, has the authority to regulate the retail sale of drugs – as BC lifted alcohol prohibition at the end of the 1918-21 pandemic. that would enable access to a safe supply, which would disrupt criminal economies and violence, reduce money laundering, petty crime, poverty, and death.

The last year has shown us that doctors will not, and cannot prescribe as is needed. Further, the Risk Mitigation guidelines take a clinical approach based in addiction medicine – but this is a public health emergency. Not everyone who uses drugs is addicted.

Over this last year and more, the supply has lost all predictability, all consistency. The well is poisoned. Throughout the province, everything.

This is an illustration of what drug checking analysis found in the “down” in Vancouver in one week.

visualization of content of "down" in the DTES drug checking

The % of benzodiazipine in “down” in Vancouver, by week.

It is not going to change by magic. This is what was going to happen here – we are in a new context of synthetic drugs – it simply happened much faster in the COVIDtimes. We must stabilize this, we must flood the system. The well is poisoned.

The supply is poison not because of what’s in it, but because the consumer does not KNOW what’s in it, or its potency. People do not know what they’re putting in their body, because it is a prohibited, criminalized substance. This is a problem that regulation will solve.

When the product is accessible, consistent, and BETTER, the illicit supply will become unprofitable. This is not a clinical approach, but a public health approach to an economic problem.

Shift the frame: safe supply is a market intervention that will return billion$ to the province. We can deter youth from working in criminal economies by creating legal opportunities, not by putting cops in schools and gang units on the streets. The best harm reduction is harm prevention.

At least two thousand people will die through consumption of unknown, unregulated substances in British Columbia this year, as policy stands.

At least two thousand.

This can only get worse.

But the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is federal, you deflect. Ah but public health is provincial and so are the regulation of pharmacists and the retail sale of certain regulated substances:

REGULATE ACCESS TO EXPANDED Safe Supply via “drug stores” and pharmacies (including co-ops), over the counter. This is a public health approach, an economic intervention in the illicit market.

Include all drugs, and make sure theyre not good, but better. Illicit substances won’t be profitable anymore.

A public health approach – as with the COVID vaccines – means that a medication is universally prescribed. Yes, EVERYONE USES DRUGS and accessible safe supply will prevent harm to everyone.

Key government, are you against crime and violence and money laundering? END PROHIBITION. Are you against the racist criminalization of Black and Indigenous people? Really? Then END PROHIBITION. The war on drugs is how the state USES LAW TO ENFORCE RACISM AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN

It would also keep billions in the legal economy. By the way.

“But the children! What if kids start using these drugs? What about youth?”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY’RE USING NOW?

Look. We are in trouble here. No. YOU are in trouble here.

We are consistently the first or second sub-national jurisdiction with highest overdose death rate in the world. We’re world class murderers.

The other is West Virginia, where harm reduction, overdose prevention, even needle exchanges are illegal. Think about that, and about what has happened here and what you are allowing to continue.

We have drug stores and pharmacists. We could do this right now and save six lives today.