forever emergencies

you have noticed how the government frames the public health emergency as one of addiction and identifies *stigma* as a barrier to solutions. this framing serves specific political purposes. its also bullshit, obviously. and this was (and remains) a very conscious political choice.

SOUND OFF: Decriminalization will reduce stigma so people can find support BY Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson

is a local paper’s “SOUND OFF” column really the appropriate place for a minister of the government to be trying to justify their policy choices?

The fear of being criminalized drives people to hide their drug use and often use alone. Given the terribly toxic drug supply, using alone can be fatal. Most of the people who’ve lost their lives to toxic drugs were men, home alone, having never reached out for help.

the column.

its not fear, its having no other option like an accessible, local overdose prevention service that compels people to use alone. most people who have died DID have recent contact with the healthcare system. that system continues to fail people who use drugs.

(This is from the Coroner’s Death Review Panel, it condemned the government’s response. This section reveals that the minister is lying.)

Health Services
Many decedents had recent or frequent contact with health professionals prior to their death for reasons related to substance use and/or mental health.

Almost three quarters (72%) of persons who died had a visit with a health professional* less than three months before their death and 87% had a visit within one year prior to their death (see Appendix 2, Table 6).
Decedents also had a high number of health visits, with almost 30% having 10 or more visits in the 3
months prior to their death compared with 6% of the random B.C. population (see Appendix 2, Table 7).
30% of persons who died had a previous paramedic attended non-fatal illicit drug related event (see
Appendix 2, Table 8). 
Of those that had a previous non-fatal event, almost 50% had a non-fatal event within 3 months of their death (see Appendix 2, Table 9)

“Given the terribly toxic supply….”

it is toxic because it is unregulated and it is unregulated because it is illicit and it is murderous and negligent that the government refuses to address that directly. the problem is the unregulated drug supply. the solution is regulation.

This isn’t going to somehow stabilize itself. the thing about “organized crime” is that its unorganized.

Decriminalization will reduce stigma, is Malcolmson’s argument. Now before arguing with that, ask

Our government believes that substance use is a public health matter – not a criminal one. That’s why Health Canada’s approval of our request to decriminalize people who use drugs is so important. It is a critical step forward in our fight against the toxic drug crisis.

Er, yeah. You actually do think of (illicit) substance use as some kind of infection of the body politic.

And again, the public health emergency is that people are dying from consuming unregulated drugs.

And this isn’t “decriminalizing people who use drugs”. What would that look like, for a start?

  • you’d need to review all municipal bylaws that criminalize people who use drugs and VOID them
  • you’d need to expunge records
  • homes, not jails

Don’t Worry, the government says. Drug Trafficking will remain illegal.

That is, the government will continue to ignore the problem and will intervene on the supply side with policing: busts and seizures and arresting the dealers and traffickers. With thresholds yet, like its 20 years ago

so by adhering to the status quo regarding trafficking – by REFUSING to disrupt criminalized supply networks by REPLACING the entire drug supply – the government is allowing the emergency to continue. the minister is announcing the decision to let thousands more people die.

and what’s that? Thinking of the children as ever:

Drug trafficking remains illegal. This change is about reducing the stigma and fear that prevent people from seeking lifesaving treatment. It’s also important to know this does not apply to people under 18. Young people will continue to be offered alternatives to criminal charges through the Youth Criminal Justice Act, including counselling and community services. No change there.

this is profoundly coercive and it seems that the government is acknowledging that the threat of a criminal charge is needed to compel people to *accept* alternatives often called “wrap-around supports”. really makes it obvious that the purpose of criminalization is control – coercive power, so what is the purpose of this discriminatory “exemption”? who benefits and how? but the government isn’t losing any power and drug users arent gaining any: but yes. decriminalization is intended to benefit the police.

The toxic drug crisis is an immense challenge and we are continuing to tackle it from all angles. When we formed government, the mental health system in B.C. was fragmented, and we’re working hard to build it up so everyone can get the care they need. We’ve added hundreds of treatment beds and are adding hundreds more. We are reducing harm through prescribed safer supply, where doctors and nurse practitioners can prescribe safer alternatives to illicit street drugs. We’ve added drug testing, the Lifeguard App, medication treatment and dozens of overdose prevention sites,

It’s the supply. We must replace the entire illicit with regulated substances accessible to all. Why are governments pretending that they can’t possibly change the laws? Why?

Imagine the changes that slowly, imperceptibly start to occur. You can feel a paradigm shift. that’s why they refuse to do it. because drug prohibition is a cornerstone, a key building block, of this mercilessly violent structure we live in. you know how im always “structural violence”? drug prohibition is the joiner between many pieces of the structure.

ending drug prohibition is a necessary and irrevocable step to building a better world. this isnt about drugs. its about pulling this structure down.

the public is way ahead of the government. people know we need a better future. we all know we need safe supply, but we have to talk about how. imagine the future after drug prohibition. imagine a better world, where we’re all healing from this. everyone has a home. we ended poverty. there is a bar where people can buy and use regulated drugs. we defunded the police. we have a harm reduction public service, and we stop crises before things go bad. we take care of each other. everything is different.

that’s why our governments aren’t ending drug prohibition. because doing so makes everything possible.