Category Archives: decrim

Stop Killing Everyone

the federal government is introducing criminal justice something-something reform today, about “prioritizing rehabilitation programs for people caught with drugs.”

★ maybe it expands drug treatment courts, which are shitty

★ maybe it eliminates mandatory minimums

★ maybe it creates treatment programs, funded so that people can access them? hahaha no

★ maybe it gives police the authority to make decisions about people’s lives that they should NOT be making

★ maybe it is a half-step, a slight lean away from criminalization to pathologization which is a good way help police and doctors and continue killing thousands and thousands of people who use drugs every year.

none of that is actually good. now who’s decriminalized?

i’m sure it will be some combination of the above, some weak-ass gesture that will not end this social massacre that Trudeau’s governments will be remembered for (eventually), but it might get him through an election using the same slogan “We’re Not The Worst” and keep the votes of anyone who still believes this bullshit. that is, not one person who has been paying attention.

instead, the government could do something effective. no really. its a choice.

unCriminaled

but its not a silver bullet!

have you ever heard such a nonsensical objection to a proposed policy reform? “Oh if its not a single-point solution, we’re not going to bother trying.”

decriminalization is necessary to enable the rest of the solution.

nobody needs to hear any more about what decriminalization should NOT be, that it should not be with dissuasion panels, not with cops, not like Portugal or another place. let’s talk about what it could, and should be, figure out how to get there, and then do it. imagine: instead of being against something horrible, we’re going to work FOR something we imagine, and win.

and this is not only about us as people who use drugs: through our connections to larger movements, our movement (when successful) will dissolve. because in fact decriminalization is about Black Lives Matter and defunding the police, not about consolidating the carceral state. the police must not be involved (yes they can go decriminalize themselves) in defining or deciding what decriminalization means! its through public discourse that we will reduce discrimination and bring people in. just by talking about these things, our lives, openly.

also:

  • stop centring ourselves, this is a social/political issue that impacts everyone
  • emphasize the economic sinkhole of criminalization
  • the drug war is racist, and a consequence of colonialism. defund the police.
  • safe supply does decriminalize. thats why we ask doctors – among the most powerful people in cdn society – to step up for us and prescribe. to defy the aura of criminal association.
  • when people object to the possibility of profound social change, thats how you know its necessary.
  • nothing about prohibition, the drug war, criminalization – none of this is natural or inevitable or necessary. its our world, lets change it. 
  • STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF. talk about the impacts on the people you’re trying to convince. talk about the public interest – how even non-criminalized people will benefit from a decriminalized society.
zooming in and out on a werewolf! caption: its not a silver bullet.... or IS it?

i’m tired of having to say that drug users should be at the centre of this and set the terms. that shouldnt need to be said. meet us where we’re at. catch up.

a public discussion is itself a process of decriminalization, since the goal is for drug users to simply be part of the public. to become boring regular people – rather than Those People. that’s the goal.

as long as users continue to be Those People, our deaths (and lives) aren’t real and nothing will change.

we don’t want compassion : we need the public to see themselves in us, to identify with us. not a brother, cousin, mother, or son. but to see us (the living) as themselves.

we need to do everything we can to bridge that gap too. what Decriminalization will look like is up to us.

a Decriminalized Vancouver is not a solution to a nationwide catastrophe. we know this, and this is not an I-Got-Mine Hail Mary to the endzone or an empty symbolic gesture. the federal government wasn’t about to do anything without significant pressure; what we did was create a pressure point, and made a window. we will keep on pushing. we must all continue to generate momentum, any way you can – have a discussion group, an educational or dialogue session, or a poster campaign, connect with each other, catch each other up. we need to push from the inside and the outside, and find new angles and ways. and start now! no one is coming to save us, and there is no Them: its just us.

ITS AWESOME BECAUSE ITS TRUE

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Drugs, Necessary Facts, and Decriminalization

at council, april 2018

I’m happy to be here this morning to speak to the work that’s been done by people w/ lived experience as a part of the mental health & addictions task force these last 4.5 years. Over that time, participation has increased, and that’s a really important point to recognize, because that in itself is an indication of how important anti-stigma work is.

btw, we got the grants! which funded the Megaphone Speakers’ Bureau. check it out

It’s significant that the City has recognized as a simple fact that people with mental illness or people who use drugs have a role to play in the development of the public policy that will meaningfully address and end this crisis – in terms, that is, of real-world change, and not just more words that sound nice.

If we ever hope to have a rational discussion about drugs in our society, this is a necessary step towards that goal – because it is a rare lawmaker who can have a rational discussion with a criminal.

So people have stepped up, because they’ve taken strength from that, and that’s an important thing too. It’s also indicative of the political work that is possible when we can thoughtfully move past stigma – because when we are isolated, can’t step forward publicly to address the issues that affect our lives. And so that’s how stigma prevents us from participating in creating the change we need. We remain silent, and alone.

These grant recommendations and this report are therefore key to ending what’s happening in our lives, and all around us, this crisis of mass poisoning and policy. This is about increasing control over one’s life, one’s agency over the forces that define our existence.

So you don’t step forward to seek help if you’re using drugs, because you fear criminalization, or you can’t access housing, because you are considered somehow problematic or challenging or hard-to-house.

You isolate yourself, as Colin described, because you start to believe that you’re not fit to be around people, so you avoid people – stops you from doing peer work, also known as having friends – who can save your life if you suffer an overdose. The opposite of addiction is connection, human connection, and that is why this matters. This is why the first principle of harm reduction is Don’t use alone. It’s about so much more than narcan, as you see.

When you’re very stigmatized, that social isolation is only going to increase: you can only become more alone, and more at risk. I was fortunate to have worked with Dr Tyndall this past year, and when I was thinking about where we are right now, I remembered something he said in December, while discussing his efforts to make safe drugs available to users. “There’s no clearer indication of the social stigma that illicit drug users suffer than criminalization,” he said on CBC. “Our society views drug users as people who should be locked away.”

Criminalization is institutionalized stigma. There’s no clearer way to put it. To be criminalized is to be thrust outside society. And as a drug user, whether you’re actually in jail or a jail of social making, the effect unfortunately is much the same. You’re outcast – whether in prison, or out homeless, cast from family or friends, or alone in a room.

It’s come to the point when people who use drugs have to remind people when they talk that they are also human and still alive. I do that all the time, including in conversations with people I have worked with for years.

The importance of these grants is to push this forward, to have this hard conversation. To speak on equal terms: this is the dynamic that compels a recognition of shared humanity.

We have to talk: justice demands that people who use drugs – not doctors, not families, not advocates on our behalf, but ourselves, on our own terms – have this conversation and demand that responsibility – and demand that, most importantly, of ourselves.

As far as building a new context, one which will end this situation, so we can find ourselves somewhere new, again I’ll cite Dr Tyndall’s work, and refer to the ten recommendations from last year’s Overdose Action Exchange. This is about everything: there’s no magic wand. These ten points intersect: three of them address the necessity of decriminalization.

The criminal nature of these substances resulted from the 1907 Anti-Asian riots, which happened here in Vancouver, where Canada’s War on Drugs began, so it’s fitting and just that you can make choices to end it. A decision was made then, a historically contingent decision that some substances indicate a moral failure, and some substances are good for one’s health. This is a historical fact, a political fact: this is not a necessary fact.

This is a choice.

A choice that was made and continues to be made each day that prohibition holds such power over our lives and determines the nature of our deaths.

We need to have a conversation about the way we deal with pain. About the role of drugs in society. About which drugs are good and which drugs are bad. And why we make those decisions. It’s helpful we’re having this conversation nationally around marijuana, but this, this is the conversation that people are literally dying for.

Catch up

It is a big deal that the people of Oregon voted to decriminalize simple possession of anything. We should do that! Yes, but also, no.

Why not? There’s one very significant reason, and it’s political reality. Do you want to get a citizen initiative on the ballot? BC is the only province with a process.

Registered voters can use the initiative process to propose a new provincial law or changes to an existing provincial law.
The voter must collect signatures from 10% of the registered voters in each of the province’s electoral districts for an initiative petition to succeed.

Oh. that sounds difficult, right? with the 87 ridings, and all those right-wing ones…..? we can continue Demanding? and Calling On? perhaps….. louder?

that strategy is not working. it’s been a few years.

the politicians and governments are not going to do this. seriously. the government in Oregon didn’t! it was the people! and to get that win, drug users and advocates and allies dropped their shit and organized.

can we do that? you’re not busy, or working on a grant, or going away. drop it. no one is going to do this for us, and we have to work together. if you won’t take a month out of your comfortable life for this, to give all of yourself to this, in whatever way you can contribute the most, you’re not an ally and you’re not in this fight, and you’re not with us.

the objective is to get those signatures.

but the method! is to spark this conversation in every electoral district. to talk to everyone! this is outreach. get it? this can be a big, network-building, months-long, intense campaign, all over the province. we can do this if we want to. 

that’s the essential thing: sparking the conversation, not trying to control it, and letting people have it themselves. the public discourse is how we reduce discrimination and bring people in. also:

  • stop centring ourselves, this is a social/political issue that impacts everyone
  • emphasize the economic sinkhole of criminalization
  • the drug war is racist, and a consequence of colonialism. defund the police.
  • safe supply does decriminalize. thats why we ask doctors – among the most powerful people in cdn society – to step up for us and prescribe. to defy the aura of criminal association.
  • when people object to the possibility of profound social change, thats how you know its necessary.
  • nothing about prohibition, the drug war, criminalization – none of this is natural or inevitable or necessary. its our world, lets change it. 
  • STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF. talk about the impacts on the person you’re trying to convince.
decriminalize yourself

i’m tired of having to say that drug users should be at the centre of this and set the terms. that shouldnt need to be said. meet us where we’re at. catch up.

a public discussion is itself a process of decriminalization, since the goal is for drug users to simply be part of the public! boring regular people – rather than Those People. that’s the goal.

as long as users continue to be Those People, our deaths (and lives) aren’t real and nothing will change.

we need new strategies. we need to learn from other campaigns. what we have been doing has not been effective enough. we need to catch up.

we don’t want compassion : we need identification. we need the public to see themselves in us, to identify with us. not a brother, cousin, mother, or son. themselves.

we need to do what we can to bridge that gap too.