In the face of intense backlash, the Vancouver Police Department is defending itself for seizing cannabis from High Hopes, an opioid substitution program in the Downtown Eastside- but its defence is just a bunch of BS.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 19, VPD spokesman Jason Robillard said police took issue over how the cannabis was packaged, saying the cannabis products “were packaged in a manner consistent with trafficking” in a feeble attempt to paint addictions workers as drug dealers. But it gets worse.
In a media release, VPD Chief Adam Palmer said:
“The VPD is very aware of the terrible consequences of the opioid crisis, and we continue to support evidence-based harm-reduction initiatives.
We are a very fair, progressive, and open-minded police agency, and we were the first to call for ‘treatment on demand’ in 2015.
We will continue to support our partners in the health and addictions community to save lives in our city.
We will also enforce the trafficking laws of Canada as necessary when people are blatantly breaking the law.”
That statement sounds great but it ignores the many ways the actions of VPD officers contradict the words of the chief. So let’s take a look, point-by-point, at why that statement is BS.
“The VPD is very aware of the terrible consequences of the opioid crisis, and we continue to support evidence-based harm-reduction initiatives.”
If the VPD is “aware of the terrible consequences of the opioid crisis”, why are police seizing cannabis that was meant to replace opioids?
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. It’s proven that cannabis is far less harmful than opioids- cannabis is relatively benign even when compared to legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol.
Organizers say High Hopes has helped half of its participants reduce their opioid intake, and 25% have stopped taking opioids entirely.
Even government studies recognize the deadliness of opioids. According to Health Canada, opioids killed more than 8,000 Canadians between January 2016-March 2018. That’s over 530 deaths per month!
It’s gotten so bad that in late August BC launched a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for negligence and corruption.
Cannabis is harm-reduction because you cannot overdose and die from it, and that’s why it’s being offered as an opioid replacement.
“We are a very fair, progressive, and open-minded police agency, and we were the first to call for ‘treatment on demand’ in 2015.”
While the VPD were the first to call for “treatment on demand” and should be commended for that, the cannabis seizure last week was neither fair, progressive or open-minded.
The seizure was very surprising because it came out of nowhere and with legalization less than a month away, you’d think enforcing cannabis laws wouldn’t be the highest priority.
“We will continue to support our partners in the health and addictions community to save lives in our city.”
The Overdose Prevention Site and High Hopes are on the frontlines of the drug crisis and are fighting to save lives, and now High Hopes has to fight just to stay at the DTES market- which is basically a fight to exist in the first place.
We have been asked to leave our location by the management of @DTESMarkets the have said they don’t believe in our project. This leads to further suffering. We are going to find out what exactly happened. #vanpoli
— Sarah Blyth (@sarahblyth) September 16, 2018
And it’s funny that the VPD is claiming it supports those who are trying to save lives in the city while at the same time threatening Sarah Blyth, the executive director of Vancouver’s Overdose Prevention Society, with arrest for trying to save lives in the city. That’s outrageous and stupid and if you want to see this change, vote for her for Vancouver city council. She’s running, and more info can be found here.
There’s also a petition called “Save High Hopes” and you can sign it here.
“We will also enforce the trafficking laws of Canada as necessary when people are blatantly breaking the law.”
To be fair to the VPD, officers did issue a warning the day before the cannabis was seized but it was still a waste of time, taxpayer money, and cannabis because that cannabis could have been in someone’s hands instead of lethal fentanyl-laced heroin.
The VPD had the following to say on Twitter:
— Vancouver Police (@VancouverPD) September 19, 2018
When you look at the wording of the tweet, it’s hard not to forget about the public relations aspect of the situation, and you can tell the VPD is in full damage control. In particular, it’s interesting that the VPD chose to use “drugs” instead of “cannabis”. Maybe it’s because we all know there’s a drug problem in the Downtown Eastside- but it’s definitely not cannabis.
The DTES is ground zero for the opioid crisis and cannabis was helping people and saving lives. The featured image, which has been reposted below, perfectly sums up what the VPD actually did, without the spin doctors.
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Heavy police presence today near an overdose prevention site where experienced harm reduction staff save lives. Earlier in the morning, officers confiscated cannabis products that were part of an opioid substitution program designed to get people off more dangerous (often fatal) substances tainted by fentanyl within the current public health emergency. So far this year, 878 people have died across BC from fatal overdoses. This does not help. #HarmReduction #BCpoli #Vanpoli
Change.org: Save High Hopes.
Grand Forks Gazette: Police chief defends controversial marijuana seizure.
Health Canada: Apparent opioid-related deaths.