In the world of addiction and drug abuse Cannabis can be a very effective harm reduction tool and, as shown in a recent UBC study, it can also be an effective substitute for opioids and other “street drugs.”
I learned this back in 2004 when I was running the “Vancouver school of drug war history and organic cultivation,” or “Herb school,” for short. It was near Main and Hastings, in the heart of Vancouvers infamous “Downtown East Side”.
The Herb school was Vancouvers second Cannabis dispensary, along with the Compassion club, but used a recreational model for access, instead of medical, selling Cannabis to anyone over 16 who had taken our “drug war history walking tour.”
Our model was designed to provide access to people who had been properly informed with respect to the nature of Cannabis and the dynamics of use and abuse.
To our surprise a large percentage of our clients were people from the area who were struggling with the problems of addiction and drug abuse.
Thats where I learned that Cannabis, especially the edibles and extracts. could replace the use of opioids and other drugs.
So with the onset of the current overdose crisis, it was clear to me that giving people the option of substituting the use of the risky street drugs with Cannabis should be part of the solution.
So, after getting unanamous approval from the VANDU Board (Vancouver area network of drug users), I then wrote a letter to Vancouver city council, laying out the “Cannabis Substitution Project,” in the hopes of getting their approval and some funding, but over a month went by with no reply. I then presented the idea to the VPD Board, getting tacit approval there, I again approached City council, but still no response.
In early April I decide to proceed with donations from the Cannabis community and began handing them out for free at Vandu in several forms, edibles, caps, dried flowers and seeds.
I have since handed out well in excess of 1400 “doses” and the response has been phenominal to say the least.
While I have been sitting in VANDU at the table handing them out, dozens of people have told me about how it has helped them in so many ways, from addressing pain to helping them sleep to just an overall better feeling. I am being told how Cannabis puts them on a “differen path” and how it is offsetting the use of the street drugs, as I knew it would.
I am very dissapointed with the City and their lack of response, this project needs to continue and deserves to be funded. Providing Cannabis to people who are struggling with serious pain and addiction issues would result in a large ecnomic and societal benefit to taxpayers and the community, it is definetly saving lives, but it is going to be very difficult to sustain without some funding.