Category Archives: decrim

Real Emergencies

Remember that fuss about the report that was released at the end of April by the Provincial Health Officer: “Stopping the Harm: decriminalizing people who use drugs”? Apparently not really.

As I tried to say on the radio it’s not about decriminalizing substances-  it’s about decriminalizing people.

That means ending the ongoing exclusion of people who use drugs – but mostly low-income, racialized, mentally divergent people who use drugs – from the legal and civil norms conventional in mainstream society. It’s not  about whether or not you’re charged with possession or trafficking or whatever.

It’s about the process of becoming criminal and how people who use drugs think of themselves as being outside of the the law : it punishes us, it does not protect us. But this report asserts that the law belongs to us too because we are also citizens and that’s the point of decriminalizing people.

now this is a public health intervention

What the report says is that policing and ongoing criminalization is preventing people from accessing health services, from accessing all kinds of Public Services, keeping us in poverty, making people vulnerable to overdose and endangering lives. Criminalization is undermining all of the health related activities that have been authorized through the initial intervention back in December 2016.

And it’s not just another report by experts that goes into the air and things may be happening or maybe not. The report and its author, the Provincial Health Officer is authorized and empowered through the Public health act and this report has a particular force because of this state of emergency. It is not just another report.

As the Provincial Health Officer of BC,
I recommend that the Province of BC
urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

“Stopping the Harm” is addressed to the government of British Columbia. from a senior officer appointed by government to the people’s elected representatives. This is a high-level intervention, not to an individual minister but to the executive of the government of the province, to the premier and the cabinet, and four ministers.

Consider the precedent. let’s go back and think about the last time we were at day 1114 of a public health emergency oh wait.

This is how to deal with an emergency. This is the most extreme intervention that provincial law allows. It has never been done before.

We need the government to consider these recommendations. It will be painful. This is a terrible situation to face directly. We can help them by being honest and brave, but they must do the same. We gotta talk, and this recommendation must be considered by the people elected to do so.

Silence is death. The legislature, the cabinet table – these are the places where this discussion must happen now. Let’s all take it seriously — as seriously as we possibly can, and in the terms suggested by this report (among others): as a political issue. 

Decriminalize Yourself

april 24 2019:

clip courtesy of cbc vancouver On The Coast

The Provincial Report is here. Below is the formal recommendation, quoted in full.

Recommendation

As the Provincial Health Officer of BC, I recommend that the Province of BC urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

Decriminalization is an evidence-based approach to drug policy that is effective in reducing harms related to substance use when reinforced with complementary measures of harm reduction, prevention, enforcement, social support, and treatment.

Redirecting police time and resources away from the enforcement of simple possession offences reduces barriers, including fear and
stigma, and facilitates a linkage to treatment and harm reduction services.

There is precedent for this in otherjurisdictions (e.g., Portugal), with evidence of success that can be applied and leveraged in BC. Specifically, criteria can be determined for (a) the threshold amount
of substance that can be possessed for personal use; (b) assessment of appropriate penalties; (c) how to offer and connect people to treatment; and (d) when the case should be referred to criminal court. In BC, local assessment committees could be established in each health service delivery area, with an option for those living in rural and remote areas to access the committee via teleconference or video conference.

I advise the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to engage with the Attorney General and the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to determine how BC can move to decriminalize people in possession of illegal drugs for personal use, using the discretionary powers vested in public safety
officials and the policy role of the Director of Police Services.

Bunked!

we are all getting bunked

in this terrifying vancouver election, i’m not terribly interested in any given candidate’s claim to be Left or Right: i’m much more concerned about how they understand power, if they are self-confident enough to take an immense amount of shit (and not it personally), if they are curious and ask questions because they want to understand, rather than want to show that everyone else doesn’t. so when i tweeted about getting bunked in the legal marketplace and not knowing what to do about it, Candidate Brandon Yan asked what “bunked” means.

“when the retailer misrepresents the product, or it is a smaller amount than purchased, or it is not product at all,” i wrote.

getting bunked several years ago would piss people off. it would happen particularly often on the weekend before cheque day. this is a low-income area and people get desperate. but a seller who rips off their customers isn’t going to be in business very long. wait, it’s only 10 bucks, you say. true. but people have to do things that perhaps they otherwise would not have in order to earn that ten. and then to go home, and open a flap of crushed chalk? if you don’t know what that’s like, i don’t want you to.

of course in 2018 you wouldn’t have time to get pissed off – if you were opiate-naive you’d be dead before this sentence ended. and the street retailer has no idea what they have in inventory (other than that “it’s really good”).

for some 25 years, the phrase “open-air drug market” has been used to describe my neighbourhood, the downtown eastside. apparently the objectionable thing about this is that it’s “open,” visible for anyone to see – thus an offense to tourism, business, the children, and decent people everywhere. therefore it is an affront to the Law, and is also known as Street Disorder

its visibility could have been considered one of its safer characteristics. “you only bunk once” it was said. you would be instantly called out, and encouraged to cease your participation in the marketplace – since now your action is widely known, you’ve undermined trust in all other retailers. it would be unwise to attempt to sell in the neighbourhood again. the fact that you tried to bunk us would never be forgotten.

that was a collectively self-regulated illicit market. there’s no customer service desk, no receipts. debts were paid and collected. there was coercion, violence.

meanwhile, in the world off the block, as the cost of everything exploded, the incomes of poor people were unchanged – which is to say, decreased. revenues fell in every market but the property market – and while the cost of illicit drugs isn’t factored into the cost of living by policy analysts and economists, it should be, because demand is steady. and it doesn’t matter where they were first produced – you can synthesize these chemicals anywhere, and it’s much cheaper (and more profitable) to produce and sell synthetics like fentanyl or whatever the next thing will be than it is to import all that bulky plant-based dope. customers had less money, and that money had to do more work. thus it’s poverty that explains the impact of synthetic opiates, explains precisely why thousands of deaths don’t mean a thing.

the illicit drug market is capitalism unregulated, revealed as an unending nightmare, in its purest and therefore most brutal form. this is the war of all against all, but we’re cannon fodder, ritual sacrifices and with our technology we can make synthetic substances in small undetectable quantities in the laundry room and yeah you will get high —

then everybody started dying

the collective self-regulation of the market? yeah, that fell apart quick. nobody knew for certain what happened to you know, that guy – or her, she was here the other day. where did she buy? no one knew. and drug users generally speaking already had some trust issues.

but now we have no trust in anything, or anyone, and if it’s even fathomable, are more isolated from each other than when this began. the hopelessness, like a wave, the undertow. we cannot trust each other again.

but then what? the use of psychotropic substances is a constant in human history. and there is less potential for harm in societies that are less harmful.

so… this all will be re-built, either illicit, improvised, awaiting the next crisis, or as an externally regulated market. either/or.

it’s not like we can remove the profit motive and transform social relations by rejecting capitalism through the free exchange of substances that relieve pain and produce pleasure

it’s not like we can do that

users are only ever interested in getting high

the solution isn’t to ‘reduce poverty’ or ‘tax the rich.’ the well is poisoned. the solution isn’t to beat them at their own game. the solution is to Change the Game.

that is what we have to do. no one is going to do it for us. there is no Them to demand that from. just us.