Are we ready to subsidize heroin?

After the supreme court ruling, Montreal and Victoria are planning safe injection sites. Others aren’t far behind.

Are we ready to subsidize heroin?

Brian Howell/Maclean's

For the last 22 years, Cactus Montréal has doled out needles, crack pipes and other necessities of drug use to the city’s addicts. North America’s first needle exchange program had humble beginnings; it once provided its services from a cockroach-infested storefront on St-Dominique St., facing a particularly seedy section of Montreal’s red-light district. Today, Cactus’s headquarters are a monument to respectability. Its drop-in centre and needle exchange occupy a bright, glassed-in corner of an avant-garde building in downtown Montreal, across the street from a university pavilion. “A lively and warm place,” as its website advertises, “where people of all stripes come to get injection equipment, condoms, crack pipes, counselling and even to draw a picture or play an instrument.”

Thanks to last week’s landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling directing the federal government to stop obstructing Vancouver’s Insite supervised injection clinic, Cactus will soon be renovating once again. Cactus administrators, and those across the country who advocate harm reduction, a policy of mitigating the damage of drug use without requiring abstinence, interpret the ruling as essentially green-lighting supervised injection sites, albeit under strict conditions. By next spring, Cactus administrators hope to have an area where drug users will be able to inject drugs under the supervision of a medical professional. Many of Montreal’s other needle exchange sites, as well as those in Quebec City, will likely follow suit in the coming year, if they meet the criteria the court established to win a federal exemption from drug possession laws.

You might say it’s infectious. Supervised injection sites have the backing of several of the country’s biggest health authorities, including those in Montreal and Vancouver. There are preliminary plans for another site in Vancouver, and possibly one in Victoria. Some advocates look ahead to a time when addicts might receive prescription heroin rather than street drugs. While many governments are reluctant to endorse giving addicts a place to shoot up, let alone the drugs to do so, every province has some sort of needle exchange program. Even Calgary gave out safer crack pipe kits for three years until health officials nixed the program over the summer.

For proponents, providing a clean, medically supervised place to imbibe drugs is simply a logical extension of a service already provided across the country. “The Supreme Court decision let us stop being hypocrites,” Cactus community coordinator Jean-François Mary told Maclean’s. “For 22 years, we gave people clean tools, then sent them out into the street. We were doing half the work. Now they’ll be able to shoot up in complete safety.”

For critics, this is tantamount to legitimizing an illegal activity and worse: providing government funding to support a destructive habit. “I’m disappointed,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has made a war on crime and illegal drugs a central policy of his government. “The preference of this government in dealing with drug crime is obviously to prosecute those who sell drugs and create drug addiction in our population and in our youth,” he told reporters in Quebec City after the ruling was announced. While he said the government will comply with the court’s direction, he made clear he favours drug prevention and treatment. That is also the stance of REAL Women of Canada, a socially conservative family values organization that intervened in the Supreme Court hearing in opposition to Insite. “I think the drug traffickers in Vancouver are going to be the happiest people in Canada,” says Gwen Landolt, both vice-president of REAL Women and president of the abstinence-based Drug Prevention Network of Canada. “The unhappiest will be the police because we know the crime rate will increase.” (The Vancouver Police Department has supported Insite throughout much of its existence.)

Apart from the obvious rebuke of the Conservative government, which fought Insite over three years and in as many courts, the decision would seem to pave the way for a wholesale expansion of safe injection sites across the country. Buoyed with the Supreme Court decision (and armed with a raft of scientific evidence), proponents of Insite and related harm reduction measures are poised to take the debate several steps further, and a quantum leap beyond the comfort zone of the current federal government, and perhaps even some health care advocates. They see supervised sites providing not only clean rigging and supervision, but the very drugs that go into users’ veins.

“People need to understand that Insite is not the end of anything, it’s the beginning of something,” says Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and an outspoken advocate of Insite because of its success in limiting the spread of the virus and other infections. “We demonstrated the benefits. The question now is how do we bring Insite to the people, and make it work for all British Columbians, for all Canadians?” He sees allowing public health nurses, perhaps even walk-in clinics or pharmacies in small or rural areas, to supervise drug consumption, in much the manner that HIV medication or methadone is delivered in B.C. now. He wants his badly addicted patients to be allowed to take drugs when they are hospitalized for infections or other ailments. Too often, they discharge themselves with disastrous results at the first sign of drug withdrawal, he says. And he and Insite staff favour providing addicts with pharmaceutical-grade drugs, perhaps paid for by provincial medical health plans. As it stands now, Insite clients feed the illegal drug trade and inject street drugs of often dangerous quality, says Montaner. Studies giving pharmaceutical grade heroin to addicts in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands proved it was more effective than the traditional heroin replacement drug methadone in stabilizing addicts, keeping them in treatment and away from crime.

The argument for providing medical heroin to users was further bolstered by a landmark Canadian study conducted in Vancouver and Montreal between 2005 and 2008. During that time, researchers with the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) oversaw the administration of nearly 90,000 injections of diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin, to 115 regular heroin users. The result: these users, chosen for their resistance to methadone, were 62 per cent more likely to remain in treatment. They also used drastically less heroin and committed fewer crimes, reported the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2009.

As successful as it was, NAOMI exceeded the limits of harm reduction in the eyes of at least two governments. It was funded and conducted in Canada largely because of what its authors called “financial and logistical barriers in the U.S.” Researchers were forced to cut the scope of NAOMI’s second phase after the Quebec government abruptly yanked its share of the funding in 2009. As a result, “The Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness” (SALOME) is British Columbia’s alone, and even there it is stalled. SALOME was slated to begin before the 2010 Olympics; to date, not one injection or oral dose of the morphine-derived drug Dilaudid has been administered.

The delay is at least partially due to public uneasiness at any large harm reduction initiative, which feeds the worst nightmares of conservative commentators and groups like REAL Women. So does the prospect that appointed judges can derail the policies of a democratically elected majority government. “You’ve got nine appointed people and not on the basis of law but the basis of ideology coming out with a decision that’s going to affect all of Canada,” says Landolt, a lawyer. “They’ve removed the discretion from the [health] minister. It’s appalling, I mean, who are they to rewrite the law?”

Cognizant of those sorts of objections, most public health services are prone to move cautiously on establishing supervised injection sites. Many feel these sites are to 2011 as needle exchange programs were to the 1990s: beneficial, even crucial, institutions that should nevertheless be carefully sold to the public through persuasion and cold, hard science.

From the beginning of the trial program at Insite, and a smaller pioneering supervised injection site at the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver’s west end for those with HIV/AIDS, the facilities have hosted a steady stream of political and health care delegations. “Just yesterday it was the city of Victoria,” Maxine Davis, executive director of the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation, told Maclean’s. “They’ve been here a number of times.” Other recent visitors include delegations from Kelowna and Prince George, B.C., Saskatoon, Toronto and Halifax, as well as from Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and Asia. At Insite it’s a similar story. “I think almost every major urban centre in this country has at some point sent a delegation of various health policy experts, or community health care folks, or police, or RCMP officers,” says Liz Evans, executive director of the Portland Hotel Community Services Society, which operates Insite.

With that level of interest, other communities and health authorities are likely to follow Vancouver’s lead, now that the legalities have been sorted out. Proponents must prove a substantial need, and the potential to save lives, before the federal health minister would be compelled to issue an exemption from drug possession laws under the criteria dictated by the Supreme Court ruling. The judges also took into account Insite’s backing by its neighbourhood, by police and by public health and political leadership.

Where Tony Clement, the Conservative health minister at the time, ran afoul of the Constitution, the judges said, was in arbitrarily refusing an exception for a program that was found to save lives. The risk of death or disease by withholding health services was deemed grossly disproportionate when compared against the benefit of an absolute ban on drug possession at the site. “In accordance with the Charter, the [Health] Minister must consider whether denying an exemption would cause deprivation of life and security of the person that are not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” said the unanimous ruling, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who spent much of her career as a lawyer and judge in Vancouver. “Where, as here, a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption.”

Still, you won’t see consumption rooms “spring up on every street corner,” says Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, which finances Insite’s $3-million annual budget. “I think people will have to do their due diligence as we did here.”

Even then it will be a tough political sell. Public health officials generally support evidenced-based harm reduction strategies, but without political, and therefore financial backing, any move toward supervised consumption is likely to go nowhere fast. In Ontario, days from a provincial election when the ruling was released, there was little political appetite for tossing a grenade like supervised injection sites into the debate. Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty said there are no plans for such sites in Ontario. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters this spring he has long been opposed to supervised injection sites. A study, approved in 2005, into whether Toronto and Ottawa would benefit from supervised drug consumption, may be released this fall, some 18 months after researchers first promised the results.

In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement he does not back supervised injection sites. Watson, a former provincial Liberal minister of health promotion, said scarce public health resources should be spent on treatment centres.

Even in B.C., which has lived with the debate for more than a decade, municipal leaders have had a mixed reaction. Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who has led the fight to reclaim neighbourhoods plagued by drugs and crime, was lukewarm to the idea of a walk-in injection site, though the city has needle exchanges and detox facilities. “We don’t have thousands of people in a Downtown Eastside,” she told the Vancouver Sun. George Peary, mayor of Abbotsford, which has struggled to contain a drug-fuelled gang problem, said he considers the ruling a vindication for Insite. But he added few cities share the scale of Vancouver’s “horrific” problem.

The B.C. government, however, has been unwavering in its support for Insite and the Dr. Peter Centre. Health Minister Michael de Jong said the court rendered a “wise and humane ruling.” Still, he said it’s up to provincial health authorities to determine where or how similar programs might be expanded.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, among those who had toured both Vancouver injection sites, says the court ruling removes a significant “impediment” to establishing a facility in the provincial capital. Fortin said a holistic program like the Dr. Peter Centre, which incorporates a small injection site into an array of health and social services, therapy and counselling, is one possible model. Victoria laid the groundwork with a feasibility study on drug consumption sites, and a mayor’s task force, which also supported the concept. Now, “we can continue to do our work, only more stridently,” Fortin said. “This is something we can move forward on as a community: how do you want to make this work?”

Mercifully, few cities have a concentration of injection drug use anywhere near the 5,000 estimated addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Insite, which has supervised more than 1.8 million injections without a fatality since it opened it 2003, is already at capacity. It oversees an average 587 injections daily. It sits in one of the bleakest blocks in a tough neighbourhood, across from a row of long-abandoned buildings that were recently reduced to rubble, a visual improvement. Inside, the building is bright and airy. The 12 injection stalls are kept scrupulously clean, with new needles, water and antiseptic wipes laid out on a table in front of a mirror for each new client. Nurses attend to wounds, abscesses, vein and skin conditions. “You watch folks suffer and struggle so much on a day-to-day basis,” says Evans, the executive director. “And they come in here and you realize this is the only square footage in the entire continent of North America that, when a person walks through that door, they’re a human being and not a criminal.”

Evans says there are plans to eventually add another such facility in the city. She also wants to expand the range of services far beyond supervised drug consumption to meet the complex needs of addicts. Lost sometimes in the rhetoric is that there are actually three floors to the Insite facility. The second story houses a small detox centre, which claims a 43 per cent completion rate among the more than 450 clients that have been admitted. The third floor offers transitional housing for those finished detox. “This is just a tiny, tiny piece of what’s needed, it really is just the beginning of a person’s journey,” Evans says.

In Quebec, where injection site proponents wholeheartedly approved of the Supreme Court decision, there is nevertheless little appetite to replicate the exact Insite model in downtown Montreal or Quebec City. Rather, a report from the province’s health authority, expected later this year, will likely call for a more decentralized approach to supervised injection: small-scale injection sites scattered across the city, according to need. “Insite is located in a ghetto, and it serves a ridiculously huge number of users,” says Gilles Beauregard, director of Spectre de Rue, one of eight needle exchanges in Montreal. “It is different in Montreal. We’re in a neighbourhood that’s gentrifying, and we need to be aware of the concerns of our neighbours.” As for medical heroin, “it’s very expensive,” says Cactus president Louis Letellier de Saint-Just.

If Insite is less controversial in B.C., it helps to understand that it was born of desperation. In 1997, the Vancouver Richmond Health Board, as it was called then, declared a health emergency in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in response to the level of overdose deaths and Third World levels of HIV, hepatitis C and other infections. More than 1,200 people died in Vancouver of overdoses alone between 1990 and 2000. “We were in epidemic proportions, we were in hundreds of deaths,” says Larry Campbell, the former RCMP drug squad member who was appointed chief coroner in 1996. “It was deeply disturbing when you start finding two people dead at a time, with the needles not even out of their arms,” he says. Philip Owen, Vancouver’s mayor at the time, was convinced that a four pillar approach to the disaster was necessary: one that incorporated prevention, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction, including a supervised drug consumption facility. The idea so appalled members of his right-wing Non-Partisan Association that Owen was forced out. Campbell then successfully ran for mayor in 2002 on a commitment to establish Owen’s safe injection site. Campbell, now a Liberal senator, saw his mayoral win as a mandate from a public desperate to end the carnage. “This is a compassionate, caring community. If you show them the proof, the evidence, they will react accordingly.”

The day of the Supreme Court ruling, with the future of Insite hanging in the balance, volunteers held a pancake breakfast as a crowd of activists and addicts gathered in the early morning darkness to watch a live TV feed of the ruling from the court. There were tears and speeches as the ruling was celebrated. Delanie Supernault, 57, has been using Insite for six years. She said she couldn’t imagine it closing, “now that we know what good it does.” After a five-week detox on the second floor she weaned herself off crack cocaine, though she still injects opiates. You take your victories where you can.

As the 10 a.m. opening of Insite approached, the crowd of clients swelled even further. Many were jubilant. A few—a woman in a black leather coat who looked too young for the weight of her troubles, and others who looked too small for their clothes—were twitching and drug-sick and raging at the world.

It’s a scene that would shock sensibilities in most any other city in Canada, yet in this neighbourhood it offered a strange kind of hope.

Inside the doorway to Insite, a First Nations man in an army surplus coat swept up the remnants of celebratory confetti before the crowd of clients surged in. “It’s a good mess,” he said, talking about the glitter on the floor or maybe bigger things. “A good mess.”


Are we ready to subsidize heroin?

  1. sad, really.

    • Why? What is sad?

  2. We’ve had methadone clinics for years and doctors prescribing oxycontin by the bucket load.  We’ve been supporting drug addicts problems as long as they have health insurance. How does this change anything?

    • Its next to impossible to get a prescription for oxycondone in Saskatchewan and I thought methadone was used to plug receptor sites for the purpose of weening the patient off of their addiction?  Where are you from that they hand it out like candy and how is efficiently enabling continued use anything like doling out methadone?

      • In Toronto they like to turn empty buildings in populated areas into homeless shelters and methadone clinics. Methadone still gets people high, it just isn’t “as addictive” as heroin. I have a friend with kids that gets a free daily methadone “drip” to ween him off doctor prescribed oxys after he got addicted. He’s been on it for over 2 years. It’s not a solution it’s just a substitute for the real thing.

        • 70mg plugs all your sites and it ain’t any kind of fix.  Not the same at all, honestly.  It’s just there to leave whatever else you take nothing to hook onto.

        • Are you kidding?  Methadone does not get you high.  once someone is on a stable dose they are normal just like everyone else.  Sure many people abuse methadone and can get high on it, but for those who take it as prescribed you would not be able to tell them apart from a “normal” person.  Heroin needs to be taken every 4 hours making the life of an addict a constant journey to get high.  Someone on methadone only needs to take their drink once a day making things like employment finally possible.

          • Anyone who thinks methadone is a solution is kidding themselves, and obviously is not an addict, or is being lied to by someone who is one, that’s what they do guys, lie to protect their addiction. I’m legally on Oxy’s and I have a family full of addicts that I have to protect myself from every day. Methadone isn’t an option for me because of the harmful side-effects, and the withdrawal can be worse. If it was really working as well as you seem to think, then we wouldn’t have such a big problem. It’s one opiate replacing another, would you give wine to an alcoholic who drinks vodka and say, well at least it’s not hard liquor, so that’s better, now they just need to ween themselves off. To them it’s just free drugs, very few have the willpower left to use it as a tool to get clean.

    • Well said.

  3. We are are already subsidizing heroin, and far too much.  Criminalization of a medical problem like addiction results in a FAR BIGGER SUBSIDY than treating it like the health issue it primarily is.   How?  The costs of extra police, of jails, of a criminal justice apparatus to deal with it, as well as the empowerment of organized crime, the costs of crime to families, and to victims of every stripe.  By building on the success of InSite, by refining it, and by continuing down the road of treatment over punishment, we will reap invaluable returns on our investment – healthier and safer communities, and a massive alleviation of human misery.  The only losers will be the dealers and the cops, both of whom end up richer and more powerful as a result of mis-guided policies that see tax dollars wasted and suffering perpetuated. 

    • Thank you for posting an intelligent and informed comment.

    • That site saw sees on average 587 injections a day.

      At 100,000 a year to jail an inmate, thats a cost of almost $60 million you rack up in a single day. Great economics.

      The other solution is to stop ignoring every study ever published, stop pretending that the war on drugs does anything other than put money into the hands of criminals, and follow the supreme courts lead.

      Tough on crime does not equal safer streets.

      • whoops, that was supposed to be in response to lonelycanadian. I don’t see anywhere to edit my comment.

      • I can’t believe these comments. It should not be about money, but what is right and what is wrong. Subsidizing heroin is wrong – period. How deep do we go to mud things out? Unbelievable. Dissapointing.

        • You seem to be mixing up “moral” and “lawful”. Just because something is illegal, does not necessarily make it immoral.
          Most addicts come from a history of child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, a family of previous addicts, etc. But judging my your comment, you obviously have no idea what I life like that would be like. You need to get your moral compass checked. These people are still human and deserve the chance to beat their addiction. 
          It’s beyond obvious that this isn’t a criminal issue, it’s a health issue. Put your ideologies aside and look at the evidence.  

          • I was phisically abused in my childhood by my father, beleve you me I know what it means. Also, for most of my early childhood I was hungry, with my mother doing her very best to keep us alive. But my mother had strong sense of what is right and wrong and she instilled that in me. And, I was listening! So please don’t preach me what a dificult life is. I never reached for drugs. The point is this is not the way to treat this illness, and help these people. We need more places where those people can get off those drugs, not feed them more. Isn’t it obvious?

          • You are right, sort of. You are right that we need more places where people can get treatment. Unfortunately our goverment believes the only treatment is jail. They keep talking about prevention, but have committed no resources. As for the factors that lead a person to drugs, they are very complex. You were lucky that you had a mother who was there for you. Many don’t have that. Its not an absolute correlation. Being abused does not make people addicted any more than having drugs available does. I can walk out my door and find drugs within 5 minutes and I have more than enough money to by them, yet I don’t. The fact that they are available is irrelevant. Providing a safe supply under controlled conditions has been tried successfully in many places. The more we push things under ground, the harder it is to control. We tried it with the most dangerous drug on earth, alcohol, and we saw the results. Why do we keep repeating the same mistakes.
            Isn’t it obvious?

          • Well I apologize for rushing to such harsh assumptions. You were definitely one of the lucky ones who had a parent there to take care of you the best she could, and made sure you stayed away from drugs. But sadly, that isn’t the case for many people. Though this isn’t a just reason to go out and do drugs, for some, that’s all that there is. That that’s the reality. Ideologies don’t serve us any purpose. Scientific proof shows that InSite is working, prohibition is not. Isn’t it obvious? Do you really think that addicts enjoy being prisoner to this drug? Is that not punishment enough? They’ve most likely suffered through out most of their lives, and so now we want to make criminals out of them too?

          • @ Mcqueen_g
            You like everybody else are missing the point – it’s not about covering it up. The injection sites are simply wrong, no matter how justified you want to make it because it supplies people with more of something that already put them in trouble – instead making them get rid of it! The jail is not necessary the solution either.. It’s the institutions where they can get rid of the problem, not prolong it.

          • Good for you and your mother, but she seemt to have forgotten to teach you a little compassion for others. Insite is a harm reducton strategy.  It is separate and apart from prevention and treatment.  All three strategies are designed to work together.

          • Well my father is a dealer and addict, and has taken my little brother along with him since he was 4, he’s 26 now and guess what, he’s an addict, he’s called me crying for help, while puking up blood and even though his life is clearly at risk, my father and the rest of my family pull him back in and keep him from getting free. He needs a safe place to go and get away and get help, and it’s not available for him. No matter how many times they get arrested they get free and continue. He doesn’t need an injection site, but he does need help. I don’t think people who haven’t experienced addiction first hand have any right to say what is needed, there is NO WAY IN HELL you could know what it’s like. So when proven fact is staring you in the face please don’t push you ignorant fear off as knowledge. Just cuz you have an opinion and a right to share it doesn’t mean you should… consider the harm if you’re wrong. Next time my father is trying to make me sell him my scrip of oxy’s I’ll be thinking of your ignorance.

        • Wrong in what way?  Please be specific.

        • Half the people addicted to opiates are due to drugs from medical “professionals”, then it’s like, oh to bad sorry sucks to be you. Then they have to find it elsewhere to avoid withdrawal that can cause death.. I think the same people who cause addiction should also be fixing it, not just dumping the problem out in the street. Not to mention Opiates are the “oldest medicine”  in the world. You can’t just ban it and think it’s problem solved, it’s useful.

        • In response to your comment below, you cannot force someone to quit heroin.  Yes, you could force them into detox for 30 days, or 40, or however many, but once they got out they would just go right back to the drug.  That’s why they call it an addiction.

          We’re lucky, in this case, in that the compassionate thing to do and the financially responsible thing to do are one and the same, namely treat addicts like the human beings that they are, assist them in keeping themselves safe, care for their medical needs, and provide them with detox and transition assistance when they’re ready, and therefore receptive.

          These are people who have made mistakes and gotten themselves into very deep trouble; it does them no good to preach at them about what bad people they are (they already feel badly about themselves), and to then turn our backs on them.  They are PEOPLE first, and they are deserving of our help. 

      • “Tough on crime does not equal safer streets”
         True Common Sense, but as you pointed out it is great economics.

        Take a peek at the model that Harper is following, Nixon in his presidency wanted revenge on the ‘pot smoking commies’ that ruined his very profitable war in Vietnam.

        He privatized the prison system, filled the prisons with ‘low maintenance’ pot smokers so profits would be high and capitalists could maximize profits.

        Now see Harper’s path, well on the road to similar results, increased crime penalties, more prisons and an increased commitment on a ‘war on drugs’.

        Now visualize that $60 million you mention above and the lobby it would support in Ottawa with politicians. And that is just from the city of Vancouver, and just from heroin addicts, expand that to every currently illegal drug, and nationwide status.

        A self supporting guarantee of continued prejudice and oppression, and completion of a basic conservative platform, increased capitalism and enabled persecution of perceived undesirables.

    • So you are stating there is NO cost to unihealth within this?  I can’t see how the times I spent strapped to a hospital bed in my reckless youth were free and it certainly would have happened a lot more if the dope was cheaper.  Money was hard to come by for those of us not willing to recruit new users.

  4. Can someone clarify this for me, isn’t drug use illegal? It’s
    ok if it’s supervised. What moron thought that made sense. What’s next,
    legalized rape as long as someone watches. Can’t believe how stupid some people
    can be. You want to help the problem, arrest everyone that shows up at these
    clinic to do illegal drugs. Their habits will die in prison.  This is just one step towards chaos.  Crime should be punished not encouraged.  GC you suck.

    • Drug use is actually legal, like prostitution. Trafficking or purchasing drugs is illegal. It creates a loophole that allows police, dealers and pimps to prey on the vulnerable. Locking everyone up will not solve the problem, since each inmate can cost $100,000 a year and there are just as many prison guards/ drug dealers in jail.

      • Well, isn’t it obvious that the justice system is frankly fucked up?

        • The justice system is what we need to focus on and change.

          • Jail usually makes it worse not better… there are underlying issues that need to be dealt with it’s self medicating, numbing the pain. You’re probably a hypocrite yourself, like you don’t smoke or drink coffee/tea/pop, watch TV, are overweight, whatever… these are all addictions… fat is the new heroin, should we lock them up and arrest them when they step into a Micky Dee’s? It’s ignorance like yours that make it worse… it won’t just go away if you stuff it in a box, Vancouver proved that, and is why they are utilizing it PROVEN EFFECTIVENESS. Did you not read the article?

    • You make the mistake of believing that Prohibition is a mechanism that provides a degree of  control over the market for illicit substances. In fact, Prohibition cedes control to organized crime. Countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand and Singapore all have the ultimate sanction against drug use and trafficking. That they continue to apply this sanction clearly show criminal sanctions don’t work in even the most extreme cases (i.e. the death penalty). Please don’t use a non sequitar to equate supervised injection sites with legalized rape. You trivialize the pain of those addicted to drugs and those that have been subjected to sexual assault. 

      • Are you saying prohibition and the “War on Drugs” did not and have not worked? With prohibition we sewed the seeds for the mighty companies producing and distributing alcoholic products. With the war on drugs we have created cartels powerful enough to corrupt entire governments. Guess it depends on how one defines success. This is not my idea of success. Addiction is a healthcare problem and should be treated as such.

        • Addictions in general create “cartels” as it happens within everything from the energy sector to entertainment.

        • Yes, prohibition is a big bomb. People have and will continue to use drugs in spite of criminal sanctions and moral hectoring against drug usage. We have a great hypocracy regarding drug usage in that the most harmful and dangerous drugs are legal (i.e. alcohol and tobacco). This strikes me as somewhat obtuse but I blame this on our politicians and the police lobby. It’s easy for them to whip up sentiment against drugs users because it works politically. In my opinion, it’s a form of discrimination but I realize that many don’t perceive the current situation as I do.   

          • Not so.  The law has always been about what’s best for those at the top.  Been that way since before Hammurabi and it still is today.  Oh and don’t kid yourself, the police would like nothing better than to NEVER have to answer drug related crime/victimization and domestic disputes as they are always the most volatile.

            I know this argument from both sides of the fence and either saying “Jack” without tipping the hat to the other isn’t worth the time it takes to listen.

          • Really? Then why are cops always the first to protest when there’s even a whimper about liberalizing the drug laws? You state that the law is “always … about what’s best for those at the top.” Yes, perhaps but that doesn’t necessarily make the law right. Some people are so beholden to “The Law” that they spend their lives serving “The Law” rather than ensuring that laws serve humanity. I submit many of the  commentators on this forum as evidence.

      • NO, I’m just simply stating drug use is wrong. And the solution is not lying in feeding the sick more drugs, but getting them off. How complicated is that to understand? We can keep justifying and blurring our realities more and more to the point where killing people will one day be justified – because somebody was addicted to it! You know they say who kills once, he needs to do it again and again and again…. And, we should probably all pay for it right?

        • What you don’t understand, is addiction and drugs. You can’t just “stop” someone, you have to do it safely. It’s not always doing the drugs that kills people, it’s the withdrawals. That is why they have medical detox, because it risks your life. Until you have experienced what it’s like you have no right to speak on the matter, you have no knowledge whatsoever about drug addiction, just an  ignorant harmful opinion. Drug dealers are now taking advantage of people trying to deal with getting clean and selling the drugs that they can’t get to help them safely detox. Sp you can goto your dealer and buy Oxy’s/ heroin/ methadone… or the soboxin to get you off those opiates.

    • Not judging you, but no wonder you’re lonely. What’s going on/has gone on in your life to make you feel so bitter and aggressive? No matter how bad things are, take heart – it can get better!  Anger is a habit.  Try looking at the world just a little differently, and you too can be a happier, more compassionate person, capable of making an important and positive difference in the world.  Best of luck – you have my best wishes!

      • Yes it can get better if it’s treated diferently. I’m not willing to pay taxes for heroin? Are you?

        • so you are against a particular compound? any particular reason for this? are  you a chemist? what about methadone? what about perscription oxy contin?

          just to be clear, there is no money for heroin in this program.

          The additcts bring their own dope.

    • Yeah, they should become alcoholics or get addicted to cigarettes and then we will treat them in the healthcare system.

      • Most  people who are addicted to one drug are addicted to most of them. The Government should put a stop to all illicit drugs, and should criminalize cigarettes smoking  as well. All addictions are a drain to the country economy Example: Addicted people  can not  hold a job, can  not progress in society,  they get sick frequently, and  have  frequent problems with the law, ending up in prisons. In a nut shell, they are feeding on blood of the working class.

        • When you criminalize something , people don’t understand why it is bad , and you help create more organized crime to deal with. You didn’t learn from the alcohol prohibition in the US ? Al capone and co. True progress in society is when everyone understand the matter of the problem and takes individual step to make themselves better thus everyone. 

        • Everyone feeds on someone or something else and we can never forge this.  Addicts can come out of it and do well enough for themselves to be partially retired before 50.  That said, helping them get high and not wanting to put anything in their way that might chase them off does bugger all to help.  An honest “You want out, it’ll cost you a year but the rest following are all yours.” program to clean people out, train them and then reintroduce them to the world clear eyed would not only save lives and money but in the long run add revenue.  People need to get serious and while jail isn’t the answer neither is enabling merely the use or lowering the overall cost of use.  Addicts need an out.  A REAL one.

        • Sorry, I accidently pressed like.

          Are you serious? Remember, insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome.

        • Gosh, sounds like you want to ruin all the fun; why stop there – how bout we criminalize fatty foods, foods with toxic preservatives, coffee, pop, sun-tanning beds,and I assume you already intended alcholol gone. Then we only have to deal with that annoying bunch who are actually bona fida disabled from birth. Wouldn’t the world be so much more perfect then. Creepy to some maybe, but gee whiz, maybe we could criminalize those disruptive types also.

        • Inti… I really wanted to lay into you for this stupid and un-educated comment, but I don’t think there is any sense….

          In a nutshell, you obviously don’t know your a$$ from a hold in the ground.

      • B.C government is already paying for a nictotine type of therapy for smokers at the cost to the taxpayer..I already heard of people who are claiming to be smokers and boot legging these pills in other provinces.

        • So I also heard a pile of CRAP but that doesn’t make it true. 

          • Again, I do know about both sides of this argument and he’s right. Drug dealers are now selling the help for the drugs they’re selling.

    • The morons were the Supreme Court bozo. As far as comparing self-injection of drugs to the rapeing of someone I can’t believe how stupid some people can be. If Insite also provided the heroin then we wouldn’t have gangs making money from it. Quite simple really..provided you’re not too stupid to see it!

      • Wrong.  They’d hit a new demographic such as children with a vengeance.  What to do then?  Merely lower the allowable age of the user?  Its not anywhere near as simple as any here are letting on including myself.

        • your grasp of economics is frightning

          Check out what happens to imports if the relative price of a product reaches zero

      • People are going to sell whatever they can make money selling… like I said, drug dealers are selling the drugs and the help to get off them. There needs to be proper help widely available, this is  great, they have safe site and the things people are forgetting, access to counselling, detox, and a safe pale to accomplish it. The biggest problem is the situation these people are in, even if it’s a loving family, if you go back to the same enablers and situation as before, it starts all over again. This is what they need, a chance to get away from it, it’s not always the individual that is keeping them addicted. If you knew anything about addiction, you wouldn’t be spouting your ignorance. Clearly you never experienced it first-hand. Educate yourself.

    • Suicide is illegal.  In fact it is the only criminal act that the perpetrator will get away with 100% of the time.  As a society, we could stand back and say: “have at er”–if you are stupid enough to do that then tough. 

      However, by developing a treatment model, and developing a drug regime that restores chemical balances in the brain, we have saved thousands of lives.  Thousands of kids grow up with both their mom and dad, instead of with one of them.  Thousands of people are set free from profound disabilities like depression, and hold down professional jobs where ever you look.  Thier families do not grow up in poverty, their families don’t have to cope with the burden & pain suicide places on them.  And *most importantly (sic) they pay taxes.  Money you would have to pay because the other guys are missing.

    • Addiction is a disease not a choice. Street addicts are usually there because society has let them down in the first place, they come from abusive homes/situations, they are often times mentally ill (self-medicating with drugs) without adequate facilities to help them (they get thrown back into the street). Harm reduction means we don’t want those addicts to be even worse off than they already are with Hep C, HIV/AIDS, and a host of other diseases. We want to keep them alive so they can have a chance to recover. Also remember that these diseases make their way into the general population but trying to reduce exposure we are helping everyone.

      • Thank you, I think people forget that this will effect everyone, especially when you think about the risks of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. My brother doesn’t deserve to rot away in a jail cell just because his father trained him to be what he is since he was a little boy. He’s asked for help, and he was stopped from getting it. Anyone who’s tried to report a drug dealer knows, it’s not as simple as that, unless you know their name, address and can guarantee they will be there at a certain time, they basically tell you too bad.

    • How sad. Drug use is illegal mainly because  the US got a carrot up its ass when Mormons in the early days returned from Mexico with one of “Nature’s Marvels” marijuana and peyote, the Mormons citing as a natural gift.  The US government of the day did not exactly like Mormons so they outlawed pot and peyote. The habit was eventually taken up by jazz musicians and some artists on the Left Bank.  Hell, Conan Doyle wrote up his detective as a user because it sharpened his detecting abilities.    The Chinese in the Orient brought the opium habit (introduced by the British as a viable business to get Chinese silver) . Chinese immigrants to Vancouver had opium dens and the police did not bother them as it did not then impact on the  “white population.”   Once the authorities passed laws about drug use it encouraged criminals to import it (also veterans from Viet Nam) for the bucks.   And don’t forget the border officials, politicians, police, DEA and who knows who else have been suborned for money in aid of trafficking.

      It is stupid to put a personal drug habit into the same category as rape.
      What is it about the prissy types that they want to control those who don’t agree with them?  Maybe we should make it a crime to push religion.

    • No wonder you’re lonely – you’re neither humane nor very bright.

    • Look at the reasons it some drugs are illegal and perhaps that will help you figure it out. How can we get people to be less at risk from dangerous drugs (help them quit, give them appropriate care, help with troubling contexts – ie mental health problems – that are ignored when they are ignored)? How can we help others who are at risk by desparate drug users (all of the previous answers, plus give them a place to do the drugs that isn’t an unsupervised area, and even better might be to give them drugs in conjunction with care and supervision to ensure they aren’t doing crime to get the same drugs)? Prison is expensive and not an appropriate place for everyone (for most) doing drugs. The world is not black and white.

    • Exactly! How many justifications we will be forced to hear about something that’s outright wrong? The line between right and wrong is so blurry, I can’t see anymore…

      • Right and wrong isn’t black and white, and who are you to say what is anyways? You seem to think you know something others don’t. I think it’s disgusting that you were graced with strong will power and an aversion to addiction and feel the need to gloat about it and hold it over others heads. Why can’t they all be more like you huh? They just aren’t trying hard enough? Is that what you think?
        My brother crying and asking how I’m able to control myself (with my oxy scrip) when he can’t breaks my heart, and your blatant denial of the facts just isn’t worth my time anymore. Please educate yourself, and as much as I wish you would get to experience it yourself and eat your words, my humanity and compassion causes me to wish that you never do.

    • Remember alcohol? Gosh, that was one terrible drug. Good thing it was illegal for a few decades… Not like it’s use went up or anything… oh wait…. it did. Oh, and so did organized crime.. Well good thing we didn’t make that mistake again…. oh wait…. we’re still making that mistake. How many times will we have to engage in the drug war for you people to realize the prohibition DOES NOT WORK. This isn’t a criminal issue. It’s a health issue. Educate yourself a little bit, instead of basing your arguments solely on ideologies that really have no logic. 

    • You are so right. Just like we did with all those nasty drinkers back in the ’20’s. Got a problem, the cops can fix it. Kids addicted to crack? Put him in jail. He can’t get drugs in jail. The war on drugs in the U.S. has been an absolute failure. They have tried the “get tough” approach and it hasn’t worked. They have more people in jail than anywhere on earth. They spend more on drug enforcement than anyone on earth. And the net result, more addicts than ever before. This is where we are headed. If people like you and Harper have their way, we’ll be as bad as the U.S. before you know it.

    • Vic Toews – is that you?

  5. Why not? We’re subsidizing guns, wars, mafia, destruction of the environment, crooked politicians… What else could possibly go wrong?… :oP

  6. What a silly, stupid rant!

  7. “Are we ready to subsidize heroin?”  This is the utterly ignorant premise that keeps up from treating abuse as a health problem and not a criminal one.

    We need understand that drug addiction is a health issue and requires treatment.

    The question would be like asking: “Are we ready to subsidize the treatment of lung cancer?”

    • Wouldn’t it be more like asking: “Are we ready to subsidize cigarettes?”, and Im sure 80% of people would cry out about that. If people have addictions, they should have to pay for them buy themselves. 

  8. I think people really need to read the ruling.  Insite lost on almost all of their counts.  Are provisions in the CDSA unconstitutional?  No.  Three wins for the Government in different counts.  The government also won in that the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity does not apply.  And they won in that the court agreed federal law trumps provincial law.  They only lost by arbitrarily rejecting an exemption as a matter of POLICY.  It’s a narrow win at best, and far from the victory that many suggest it is.

  9. Execute drug dealers and importers, cut off the supply  then the problem dies . I like three meals aday is this an addiction then all you bleading hearts should be paying my grocery bill, nobody told these losers [ as most of them are] to do drugs its called personal choice , my tax $$$ should not support this habit..,

    • While we are at it we can ban the following (partial list) from access to health care
      – fat people
      – smokers
      – pregnant women (could have used a condom)
      – aids patients
      – runners (no more free joint treatment)
      – drinkers…no more liver transplants
      – diabetics .. surely we can paint this as self afflicted
      – no more treating injured kids….keep them off bicycles, skateboards etc
      – old people…its their fault for taking care of themselves and now they are costing the system.

      I sure hope no one in your family ever has an addiction problem.

      • Hey Dummy !!
        You cant tell the difference between illegal and life…Being fat, pregnant ,old etc is a fact of life being a druggy is a is for losers …. are you one ????

        • You must have directed this reply to the wrong person. I am not a “dummy” and I am not an addict.

          I think you missed the point of the post. Find a five year old to explain it to you.

      • Actually Diabetes can be hereditary, and Type 1 is not self-inflicted. Diabetes can also be caused by damage to the pancreas from viruses. so maybe you should learn about the disease before you label everyone with diabetes the same. Drug addiction is a choice, and there is an absolute cure for it, don’t use drugs.

        • Sorry, I understand diabetes too well having lived with the disease in my own family. I tried to make it clear what I meant with the add on “surely we can paint ..”
          Obviously, I did not choose my words carefully enough.

          I apologize.

    • I have to type this because they don’t have an “Unlike” button.

      Please lagarg, take this as a big, fat “UNLIKE.” 

    • Really, what you propose is so silly I don’t know where to start. Like I said before, if the premise of executing drug dealers was so successful, then they wouldn’t be continuing to execute them in China, Saudi, Thailand, Singapore, Iran,etc. I’m not sure how you would propose eradicating every plant that makes cocaine, heroin or cannabis in the world but go ahead and try. Nixon, who was initailly responsible for starting “The War on (Some) Drugs” in order to go after people who were importing pot from Colombia and Mexico got a little more than he bargained for when these drug smugglers figured out that it was easier to smuggle cocaine or junk (and the profit was much greater)  and was considerably less risky  to transport than bulky cannabis flowers. Bush and Ray-Gun, with their focus on cocaine, unintentionally created a market for hillbilly bathtub meth. Be careful what you wish for. Nixon would have been way better off to legalize pot rather than initiate a war against hippies (which is intitially why Nixon started this war). Harper has the same hatred for “hippies”, the bane of his high school life, and he appears to be ready to make the same mistakes as every doofus Republicon president since Tricky Dick. 

  10. Since the War on Drugs is so sucessful the Government after thirty years only has a few drug dealers left to clean up

  11. ”Are we ready to subsidize heroin?”  No! all addicted people are already a drain on the Canadian system as a whole. Why not subsidize education for all? It is  with education that people can  change their life, not providing free illicit drugs for the losers! Enough is enough!!

  12. So heroin is good, and should be free to anyone.  Great progress!  And cocaine is okay? Sure, why not. Acid.  Ecstasy? Methamphetamine? Wow. You name it, we’ve got your safe, free government supply.  This is such a great country to live in.  Lets encourage everyone to participate.  Safe injection sites starting in elementary school, so no one ever needs to come down from a high. 

    • Rubbish!

    • This isn’t the proposal.  A heroin addict has sex with a girl who has sex with a guy who has sex with your daughter.  The heroin addict injected himself with a used needle, and has HIV and Hep C hiding in him, with little to no symptoms.  If the community, society does not treat this as though there was an epidemic, we all better be prepared to pay.

      This program is for genuine addicts.  Not for people to become addicts to get free drugs.  With few exceptions addicts hate their habits.  They don’t do heroin to get high, they do it so that they don’t get sick.  Addicts have to fear the government, doctors, policemen etc. because if they are thrown in jail, they will get very sick.  And these people right now represent the way to jail.  Under a medical model these people, not recreational drug users, have a life-saving intervention, and over time, medical solutions to getting off the habit.  In a medical model, the doctor and the nurse, and the counselor are there to help you get better, not to turn you in.

      Finally, there have been a few studies done where groups of addicts had access to medical heroine prescriptions.  Crime rates plummeted: the addict didn’t have to steal thousands and thousands of dollars worth of honest hard working people’s stuff.  And the Hells Angels were mad because they weren’t getting thousands of dollars from every addict they had under their  thumb.

      • Perhaps the best post in the entire thread. Well put, Owen!

    • Non sequitur alert,

  13. It would be nice, if with the safe injection site, came a plan to actually teach about the life changing dangers of being a drug addict to children when they are young and in school. Teach them something worth learning, show them the face of a drug addict when she was young until she started using, tell them the horrors of selling their own bodies and losing friends on a monthly basis, the reality of making bad decisions. Show them the cool kids who aren’t so cool anymore and give them a chance for a future.
      I agree that Insite saves lives, but at the same time what are we doing to keep people from going down that road? Prohibition is a joke, our Churchy government has no clue, Harper just does what the DEA tells him he has to…lets turn this country around and empower people with free post secondary education and a feeling that there is hope for their future instead of enabling them as drug addicted adults.

    • I meant as well as, not instead of, the problem is already too great to just sweep away. give the current drug addicts hope and the future drug addicts a reason to not go that route at all.

  14. How about subsidizing alcoholism…I know I’d drink alot more….whoooooo!!!!

    • We do subsidize alcoholism. Liver transplants are covered under the health care system. So is lung cancer if you want to start puffing.

      • Actually, that is helping treat the effects. That is not subsidizing as the behavior is done. Alcohol and cigarettes are taxed like crazy, so in actuality, they are probably subsidizing our healthcare. (I don’t mind :))

      • charlie468 — I don’t know about that. I had a friend with alcohol related cirrhosis and they rejected him as a candidate because he was an alcoholic. He subsequently had a painful death. 

        • That is a fact – you don’t even get on the waiting list until you have submitted to six months of tests showing you have not ingested alcohol.  

    • We tax it like mad and we pay for the health impacts. The reason is that Prohibition taught us that repression of desires simply drives the business underground and enriches criminals.  As for pot, to throw kids in jail, giving them a record, is a far worse practice than pulling the puritan long face  so common among anally retentive religious hypocrites.  And although I am a conservative, they are obviously there in the Harper crowd.

      • I don’t disagree with most of what you say, except for the part about religion. Quite condescending, and in most cases inaccurate.

        • This doesn’t connect here but I saw it on Disqus.  What’s condescending? The truth is never condescending. The only basis for belief is evidence and reason. 

          • the puritan long face  so common among anally retentive religious hypocrites.

            Pretty simple – condescending and inaccurate in most cases.

          • Except you have people like “Dr.” MCVety bragging that he helped Steve re-write the drug laws. There’s nothing condescending about calling a spade a spade.

  15. So I completely agree that providing clean needles and thereby stopping the spread of HIV or hepatitis is a good thing, and that these centers can be used to help move folks into counselling and treatment, I resent the fact that supplies for my diabetic child are still not provided to me through health care funding. Needles, strips, insulin and glucagon cost my family about $400 each and every month. Alex’s diabetes (Type I, Juvenile onset), which he was diagnosed with at 5 yrs, is not due to any lifestyle choice that he ever made. I think that it is time to start lobbying about this.

    • Agree … 100%  Too often decisions for Health Care funding are made because someone believes we are spending too much and the way to solve that problem is by cutting services.

      We need to put the focus back on effectively treating Health Care problems and deal with the cost as an effectiveness and efficiency issue.

      Not providing proper treatment for your child under the health care system is a disgrace.

    • Very very good point.

    • Not sure I understand, how is diabetes different from other diseases?  Lots of people pay for the medications/devices they need to treat their diseases/health conditions.  Are you suggesting special treatment for your particular disease, or suggesting the government should pay for all medications and devices for all people with all diseases/conditions?

  16. Want to kill the pusher trade?  Dispense medical-grade heroin with a prescription, inside an “insite” facility.  Without their main customers to prey on, business will be so bad they will close up shop.

    Meanwhile the robbery victims the addicts must prey on to survive, will go away with the pushers.

    With no pushers it becomes harder and harder to become an addict.

    I am a Conservative, and hold this view.

    • I am a conservative as well and I find this proposed solution far too logical. Next thing you know we will be basing our approach on facts and science.

    •  Sounds good in theory, but insite only lets in addicts with a clear addiction, they don’t let in first time users and the gateway market will always be there for those kids that can be taken advantage of by pushers.By the time a user gets to insite they have little chance of ever actually recovering from the drug addiction. I found it funny that 60% of addicts in the government sponsored system stayed in “treatment.” That’s not “treatment,” it’s enabling.  So how about a two tier system, first tier is insite, second tier, anyone who sells drugs to a minor gets a bullet to the head, whether they themselves are minors or seniors, immigrants or Canadians, illegals or landed…that should be the rule. You start someone down a path that will cause misery and burden you take a bullet to the head. Then I guess we’d have to kill the parents that raised the drug addicts too….
      There is no easy solution because we as a country have let this situation get out of our hands and we play catch up over and over.

      • I really like your solution. :)

    • If by “dispense” you mean sell (at a price not to exceed the cost of street heroin), then I agree with you.  If people can afford street drugs, they should be able to pay for medical heroin.  This would eliminate the problem people have with subsidizing addicts.

  17. I think it would be smart if InSite (i.e. the health system) provided drugs to addicts. THAT would put traffickers out of business, and given the reality that heroin, cocaine, etc are actually dead cheap in the legitimate drug market, would save all of us money. Confusing addiction (an illness) with a defect in morals is a recurrent and stupid theme.

    • Addiction is not an illness. I didn’t ‘catch’ smoking for 20 years – I did it. Some people get hooked easier than others, and some don’t have the means or ability to get off. It is sad, but please don’t call it an illness.

      • Under the charter and human rights law, addiction is a mental disability.  A disability is one of the enumerated characteristics, along with gender, ethnicity, etc., protected from discrimination.

        More often than not, addicts are self-medicating emotional, psychological and neurological damage; ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc., often inflicted in the womb or during formative years. The chief cause is stressed out or emotionally unavailable or abusive or absent parents. That includes tobacco, which stimulates dopamine and is especially popular for self-medicating undiagnosed ADHD, as is cannabis.

        • Which is it, the charter or some other law, I would like to research that.

          If that is accurate, is over eating a metal disability? Is any behavior that we can claim that we have no control over a mental disability? This is a slippery slope. . .

          • Rather than idly speculating, why don’t you do a little googling?

          • I did. Didn’t find it. That’s why I asked for more specifics, to make it easier to google. You did read that part, didn’t you?

          • addiction disability canada

          • The enumerated list of grounds for discrimination, which includes disabilities, is found in the charter, as well as in international, national and provincial human rights law.

            The SCoC upheld that addiction, defined as substance dependency, (including alcoholism), is a mental health disability in 2006. 

            Food is not a “substance” in that it is a requirement of life, like air and water, however, one might make a case that a severe eating disorder is a disability.

            Interestingly, when a cannabis user claimed he was addicted to cannabis in an effort to avail himself of human rights law after being fired for using cannabis, the court ruled that he wasn’t addicted and that, like 95% of cannabis users, he could take it or leave it, and therefore wasn’t protected against discrimination.  So the slope isn’t that slippery.

          • Section 15 of the Charter. Got it. And then the courts read in that addiction was a disability. Now the courts are forcing the gov’t to keep a site open that they do not want to fund. Got it.

            That is the start of the slippery slope. Not sure if the federal gov’t can use the notwithstanding clause, but if they can, that would be a good place to apply it. (remove the SC ruling of ‘addiction as a mental disability).

            I am not saying I am against Insite, I am saying that I don’t like the power to ‘read in’ to law as much as the SC has taken upon itself with the charter.

            The current court might have not allowed the MJ thing, but that doesn’t mean future courts might have different opinions. And they didn’t say that MJ addiction didn’t ‘fit’, they only called it a ‘taste for MJ’. If someone could prove addiction, that would be a different court case. Also, if someone can prove a mental or physical addiction to a different substance, they would have a compelling court case.

            While I feel bad for people who are hooked, and I feel that we should help them, the decisions should be up to the millions of people who call themselves voters, not 9 unelected judges.

          • Modster99 wrote: “Section 15 of the Charter. Got it.”

            As well as international, national and provincial human rights

            “Now the courts are forcing the gov’t to keep
            a site open that they do not want to fund. Got it.”

            No.  Insite gets no federal funding. The feds only funded the research early on.

            “notwithstanding clause, but if they can, that would be a good place to
            apply it.”

            It would be an extremely frivolous use of the notwithstanding clause.

            “I am saying that I don’t like the
            power to ‘read in’ to law as much as the SC has taken upon itself with
            the charter.”

            That addiction is a disability didn’t actual factor into the ruling.  I suggest you read it.

            “While I feel bad for people who are
            hooked, and I feel that we should help them, the decisions should be up
            to the millions of people who call themselves voters, not 9 unelected

            The justices have the responsibility of upholding the Charter.  The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act sometimes infringes on Charter rights.  The SCoC did the most conservative and least intrusive thing they could do under the circumstances, which was to uphold the CDSA and the Charter as written, not change, strike down or create any new laws, but rather insist that parliament obey the law as they wrote it.

  18. Why do we not have medical tobacco and medical rum and coke?  No lobby to represent the poor smokers and drinkers of the world.

    • Yes there is, Joe Camel, the Marlboro Man, that pirate rum drinker guy, etc. Alcohol and nicotine have always had a big lobby supporting their usage. It’s the same with illicit drugs but the supporters are ironically the governemnet and police lobby along with organized crime. Prohibition works for all of them (for different reasons)

  19. It is painfully obvious that the “war on drugs” in the U.S.  has been a complete failure. It simply enriches criminals increases supportive crime and in  many cases corrupts officials and politicians.  And so it is in Canada. You would think that with the experience of Prohibition behind the, governments they would  understand that the repressive and criminal approach to the personal consumption of drugs simply drives the trade underground, raises prices and benefits mainly the elements of organized crime.

      I am not a user of any sort, except for some mild painkillers prescribed by my doctor.   But I heartily endorse taking the profit out of drugs. First by legalizing pot and treating it in the same way as liquor.  In respect to hard drugs, I would concentrate on heroin, making it available by prescription provided the user goes on a monitoring and possibly detox program.  Put  the pushers out of business by undercutting them in price.

    Like the poster below, I am a conservative  but do not agree with the Harper approach one little bit. 

  20. The Libertarians have it right. Legalize literally every drug on the planet, and use the law only to assure those drugs are clearly labeled with their usage constraints and side effects. Tax the crap outta those drugs, and use the savings from NOT enforcing the war on drugs to pay down debt.

  21. Laws are made by governments not by the courts.  It is the job of the court to uphold the laws of the country.  Something is really wonky here.

    • Well the wonky thing is that the Federal Government was not following the law and the Supreme Court just reminded Steve Harer of that fact. Sheesh.

  22. The harm reduction apologists are out in force today, of course As indicated by the posts, it is drug decriminalization they are after.  Look at all the money going to criminals when it could be going to the medical establishment and drug companies.  Nobody wants drug users off drugs – they want them there. Good money all around.

    • Not.

  23. While I am against drug use, I have long argued for marijuana to be legalized. It is a gateway drug. Doing this would shut down a huge supply of $ for the drug dealers. Then, get hard on the sale of harder drugs. By hard, I mean hard. All possessions lost (makes the benefit of drug dealing a lot more of a risk). Many years in prison (and make prison tough). Basically, choke off the dealers. They are the true pushers of the problem, and $ is the driving force. To heck with what the Americans say, we just need to do it. The only problem I foresee (and this happened with alcohol) is that once MJ is legal, it will become socially acceptable. Usage will probably go up.

    Lets be blunt:

    ” The result: these users, chosen for their resistance to methadone, were
    62 per cent more likely to remain in treatment. They also used
    drastically less heroin and committed fewer crimes, reported the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2009.”

    This is the best we can hope for? I am not for my money being spent on drugs for users. I would support a program, however, where the end goal to to keep them off drugs at some point in the future. To ask us to pay for someone to shoot up for life is crazy.

    I am apposed to the ruling by the court. Not the outcome, so much as the reason for the ruling. That a democratically elected government can be forced, by 9 unelected people, to do anything, is insane.
    That they can say that a government HAS to do something, with the sole reason being that it will lead to lives being saved and/or disease infection being decreased, is scary. I can think of a few areas where that justification could be used to force things on us that we may not like. And now that the decision has been rendered, it is there as a precedent. It will come up again. There is that injection that young girls can get that helps prevent a certain type of cancer. Some folks don’t want it. This decision could be used, in the future, to force people to get it. It was a bad ruling, not because I am against Insite, but because it was a bad ruling. That makes me think that it was politically motivated.


    • No cannabis is not a gateway drug. That has been scientifically (peer-reviewed) proven time and time again. I know of many people who use cannabis and they don’t have any desire to try other drugs. In many ways, cannabis is a terminus drugs.

      • It has also been shown in several studies to be much less dangerous in terms of human health and social impact that alcohol and tobacco. Apparently facts and good science have little to do with our drug and health policies.

        • Arguing that it is ‘not as bad’ as other thing is the wrong approach to try to legalize it.

      • How many people have tired heroin, who haven’t tried MJ? I know many people who use MJ and not other as well. That, on it’s own, proves nothing.

    • No.  While illicit market drugs are expensive they are really very cheap when you take the crime out of them. Nine unelected people (The SCOC) have a constitutional power to determine whether laws are constitutional or not. The real debate here is between jurisdiction because of provincial health policy or federal criminal narcotics policy. The former aims to help people who people who are ensnared to do it in a healthy fashion.The latter is very political – witness the fact that the Liberal govt had a different stance on the issue.   The current govt’s view is based on their own biased religious outlook.  

      • Any proof to the “biased religious outlook”?

        • This is a discussion of drug policy not religion. But all religious outlook is biased because it is based on a belief that is not founded in fact. The right wing of the Reformers were  heavily influenced by Manning, who carefully kept religion out of politics. But the fundamentalists who so heavily influenced George W. Bush also were an influence on the Alliance and then the new Conservative party and would been more so had they been allowed in the tent.  That is the source of the potential division between the old Progressive Conservatives  and the Reform/Alliance group.

          Although there were doubts about John F. Kennedy because of his religion he was careful to stipulate that what ghe did politically as President was separate from his private beliefs as an RC.

          In the same way, by and large, Harper has kept obvious religious bias in the background in pushing for the centre, but it has, I believe, influenced policy in respect to “law and order”  when the evidence strongly counters his policy on prisons and minor crime.  There is no debate in my mind about violent crime but all the statistics show it decreasing in both the US and Canada. His governments views on drugs are a  mirror image of the US “War on drugs” which is a bankrupt policy having achieved little except increased money to crime and subornation of officials and police.  Finally, it is stupid to jail young people for smoking pot and to criminalize the private cultivation. Caffiene is far harder on the system, as is alcohol.  

        • Yes, “Dr.” McVety, the Ottawa Church Ladies and Gwendolyn Landolt.

          • Real Women ( Ms. Landolt) were actually intervenors in the court case. 

  24.  Why not just send all the dopers to forced detox and then to a work-based rehab jail. They can work from sun up to sun down and sweat all the toxins out of their systems. At the end of the day, they’ll be too tired to get into any trouble. You’ll have fewer relapse problems because nobody will want to go to work like that again.

  25. This comment was deleted.

    • Nice guy. Your mom beat you with any ugly stick today?

    • I assume your name is Don Cherry? 

  26. I expect higher quality articles from Macleans. The headline alone shows me that I can no longer support Macleans or take it seriously.

    This is right wing extremist garbage.

    Where’s the journalistic integrity?

  27. Just an idea… Personally, I think safe injection sites are almost a good thing. Wouldn’t it be better if we were to offer the drugs for free too?

    In order to get the free drugs there would have to be a catch though. What if you’re an addict, the next time you find yourself desperate for a fix you could check into a safe rehabilitation facility that would supply you with drugs far better than you could hope to score on the streets. You could get an injection whenever you need it the most BUT you would have to commit to staying until you haven’t asked for an injection for a week. The second time you check yourself in you have to stay until you haven’t asked for an injection for two weeks. The third time checking in would mean you have to stay clean for three weeks. While inside the facility you would have access to counseling and be able to work for the facility to earn rewards such as softer blankets and extra pillows or pay per view television or anything else that would improve your quality of life during your stay. If you stay too long and you’re not getting better you would be moved to a level 2 facility which would be similar to a prison but only for addicts. In level 2, rather then weaning yourself off the drugs you would have to go through an accelerated but safe detoxification process and then forced to stay clean for a minimum of two weeks before being released. The second time you end up in a level 2 facility you would be forced to stay clean for four weeks.

    I’d bet that this idea wouldn’t likely cost more than placing people in prison. It would likely free up the court system somewhat and it could allow police to focus on other issues because with free drugs available desperate addicts would no longer have to resort to crime in order fund their addiction.

  28. Really? I came to Canada in 2001 with $600 for me and wife, it was a Saturday. On Sunday morning I was cleaning a backyeard and go paid $60. That money paid my groceries for the first week. Since them I have had 15% extracted from my cheques every month. It is a money that I never see back. It is a money that should stay with me to family improvemnts and not DRUGS Subsiding.

    • So you’d rather pay $100,000 per convicted drug user per year to keep them in prison. You have a poor grasp of economics.

  29. Vancouver did its own homework and found that inSite works for the city. It is not certain such a centre can work for any other cities or not, so any city that are interested really have to do extensive research to see if such a site works. And I agree with @b76fef385ffb64e46d661f090edd807c:disqus that it is already demonstrated the Prohibition of Alcohol failed so badly that it makes big powerful cartels. How can prohibition on drugs work? The evidence just does not not show it. THe jails themselves have plenty of drug dealers to deal with the inmates. Clearly those people who thinks that jailed inmates will kick the habit is living in some fantasy world. Consider. Even those countries that has the death penalty for having drugs or dealing drugs still have drug addiction problems when they should have “Magically” disappear already! But they did not. So obviously, something is wrong here when even the most severe punishment cannot deter drug addicts. I also agree that tobacco or smoking cigarettes should be considered more dangerous than drugs. Death by smoking or second hand smoke has caused more lung cancers and death than all heroin, meth deaths in the whole world yet no governments has yet to treat tobacco smoking as bad as taking drugs. Clearly, it is politics and propaganda at work.

  30. This is an example of a bunch of supreme Court judges who have never lived in a hard working middle class neighborhood. Who now have chauffeurs at their disposal and huge salaries. they are bleeding hearts who have once again listened to the minority. Have these judges ever walked the streets in the lower east side of Vancouver and see how our government is promoting drug use,or for that matter have they ever gone to the part of Ottawa that is drug oriented.We will have problems in the future. Do they not remember when China and Japan had licensed Opium dens and the devastation it brought to their countries They are modern day cowards protected by their appointments. The Canadian government must re write the law pertaining to these sites that is fool proof  and that should do it with this bunch

    • Did you ever walk through the DTES? If so when?

  31. Far better to throw all the druggies in jail, and invade any country that produces evil substances.  We would need to invest 99% of our income, but our southern neighbors have been following this plan for 30 years, so it must be working.  It would seem that most politicians and  journalists must understand something that eludes the common citizen.

    • Just a single holiday in the drug and crime free USA should tell us how well it works.

  32. We subsidize the Oil Sands (and the multi-national  corps that reap the benefits) via R&D grants and othe tax breaks. Helping people get treatment and make inroads to a more stable life is in the best interest of our country and our communities. It’s an investment.

    • We don’t ‘subsidize the oil sands’ in any way. We get tonnes of money because of them. Don’t believe propaganda.

  33. Simple answer NO please NOOOOOO…..!

  34. When do we start to subsidize alcohol?? It’s just as addictive. Subsidizing heroin for addicts, or methadone ( a less addictive substitute) is not “management” of the problem. It just perpetuates a drug problem. It’s like giving a lolipop to a kid throwing a temper tantrum in order to keep him from stealing  even more candy. Except these are adults who make their own decisions. I’m not interested in my tax dollars going to subsidize their drug addictions. Just as I don’t want my tax dollars going to subsidize an alcoholic. Possession of banned substances is illegal. Lock them up. Then spend our hard earned dollars making sure drugs aren’t getting in to the prison system.

  35. STUPID idea!

  36. This is a compromise with CRAZY DRUG LAWS!

    The source of all this insanity was repeated by Harper, with his bogus value judgments on SOME drugs.

    Our drug laws have no rational relationship to pharmacology.

    Some of the best, and safest, e.g., marijuana and mushrooms, are the most illegal.

    Then there is the off-the-wall hypocrisy of numerous other plants and drugs and substances, that are way, way more harmful than marijuana or mushrooms, and yet those are all perfectly legal.

    The drug wars segued from slavery and racism, and make the same sense, and did the same things as slavery and racism really did.

    We live in an insane society controlled by the people who are the best at being dishonest and backing that up with violence.  Therefore, all of our drug laws can only be understood by following the money, and especially by following the money to the source, the BANKSTERS!

    The drug wars were deliberately designed to develop more fascist police, to serve a growing fascist plutocracy.  That is the ONLY way to understand our drug laws.  The government is the overwhelming harm maximization agent in this situation … The Insite SCC decision allows that a few people may put up a magic umbrella of protect against the general deluge of huge lies that pour out of the drug warriors, as they ruthlessly continue to accomplish the opposite of everything that they say they are doing … (which was what was their bosses really intended all along!)

  37. Are we ready to subsidize heroin ?… Who is we ?? I can only see the lefties who gave addicts the needles and sites to shoot up subsidize heroin.  But you’re not getting a penny of my hard earned money to feed those “loques humaines” free heroin on my tab . In fact, you lefties out there should join the addicts and create your own heroin shoot up club . Wouldn’t that be nice ? JFL : Just F…… Lovely !!

    • Read the article? The headline is erroneous.

  38. Why would we not, if it saves lives and keeps the rest of us safe. The Harper government’s Back-to-the-50s should not be allowed to stop this one.

  39. @taxed to the max, So you’re not prepared to subsidize opiates but you are prepared to pay several orders of magnitude more to put opiate addicts in drug- and disease-riddled prisons.  At least you’re willing to put your wallet where your ideology is.

    We don’t have any drug-free prisons for a reason.  Drugs are worth ten times more behind bars, in much the same way drugs are worth a hundred or a thousand times less in source countries.

    When do we prohibit alcohol? Because not long after we do, it will make economic sense to provide supervised drinking sites where alcoholics can get clean glasses, taxis, condoms, stomach pumps for the wood-alcohol, and medical attention when they overdose, or hurt themselves and others,

    In both cases, ignoring the harm and attempting to arrest our way out of the problems we
    created, (adulteration, gangs, corruption, youth access, etc.), is much more expensive,
    especially without the sin taxes proportional to the consumer base.

  40. And it did those things without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area

  41. TEN THOUSAND ACTIVE DRUG ADDICTS  in a twelve square block area 

    The producers of this short film are both recovering addicts who have both spent time living and indulging with drug addiction in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside.


  42. ah so now you are an economist too… great…

    ok mr. economist, what happens to supply when the price of something is reduced to zero?

  43. The points that everyone seems to miss are:
    1. The war on drugs is not winnable (ask any law enforcement professional on the front lines)
    2. The war on drugs primarily affects the price — not the supply.

    An addict will do what ever it takes ( usually an illegal activity — they pay best) to support their habit. If I were in the illegal drug business I’d make substantial contributions to those parties / politicians who support the “war”.

  44. I think people on here need to realize that unless you understand addiction (firsthand/ through education) there is no logical reason why you should have an opinion on the matter or think you know what is needed to help these people.
    It’s not a simple problem and therefor can not have a simple solution, it’s a multifaceted living thing that evolves and adapts and that is why it has been around for so long. Until people are willing to actually sit down and understand whats going on, there will be no end to the suffering.
    I am not an addict, however my life has been greatly effected by them and I have had to get off of medically prescribed opiates on my own.
    When you see a drug dealer pick up a massive bag of pills from a pharmaceutical company parking lot and an actual employee, you know the problem is much bigger than just the addicts.
    Now the dealers are selling the drugs and the help to get free of them, because people can’t get access to help themselves, it’s just another way that people are being preyed upon.
    This effects us all on many levels and if tax dollars are you’re concern then there really is no hope for your ignorance.
    Get your heads out of the sand and educate yourselves before you destroy our wonderful country of freedom and compassion even more

  45. “You’ve got nine appointed people and not on the basis of law but the basis of ideology coming out with a decision that’s going to affect all of Canada,” says Landolt, a lawyer. “They’ve removed the discretion from the [health] minister. It’s appalling, I mean, who are they to rewrite the law?”
    I had to laugh when I read this quote in the article.  As usual REAL Women has it backwards.  First of all, “who are they to rewrite the law?” is simple to answer: they’re the Supreme Court of Canada.  That’s their job.  They interpret the law that Parliament passes to make sure that it doesn’t violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

    Second, after a Justice is appointed she/he really can focus on the law and be freed from the shackles of blind ideology.  A politician is hamstrung by the ideology of his/her party, and the perceived desires of his/her constituents.  The health minister’s discretion is almost certainly going to be aimed towards doing what he perceives will get him re-elected, not towards what is actually the right or lawful thing to do.

    Honestly, I much prefer that the application of the law be decided by nine men and women who don’t have to worry about doing what is perceived to be right.  The fact that they are free to consider this issue from the perspective of the drug addicts who are, after all, the ones most affected by the decision (at least from a life-and-death point of view), is crucial to their being able to decide how the law is properly applied.  

    Insite has saved many, many lives.  The sad thing is that these lives do not seem to be of any value to this government.  So we have to prove that it’s also reduced crime and saved health care dollars.  Compassionate Conservatism is an oxymoron.

  46. I do not use “drugs” nor do I advocate the use of drugs, but for those who do, clean, safe injection sites make much sense, I understand much disease is transmitted through dirty needles  ect. This is a positive step on behalf of those involved. Congratulations.

  47. I think it is important to focus on what the bigger picture is… Everyone has to understand that these drug users will use no matter what, whether it be in these safe clinics or on the streets. These clinics are providing users a location where they don’t have to worry about being punished with illegal substances so they can practice safer injecting techniques, with clean supplies and under the supervision of a heath care provider. On the streets HIV/HepBandC and other infections are major concerns, these types of infections tax our healthcare system in the long term more than how much it costs to run these clinics. Its either let these infections spread or have control over it… The benefits of these clinics go farther then the morality of the actual physical act of using drugs… Injecting dirty drugs takes a toll on the venous system, damaging countless organs. How moral is it when a drug user is put on the list to receive a transplant when we already have a shortage of donors? The use of clean clinical grade drugs will decrease the amount of organs needed for this group of people.. How moral is it when a child sustains a Infectious needle stick injury in the community because of used needles? 
    It keeps crime rates lower, prevents crime and future health costs down, prevents the spread of disease/viruses, keeps our streets safer and offers counselling programs to help people quit using drugs. The benefits are far reaching.. You choose what is more important.

  48. May I suggest in establishing Insite
    clinics in each neighborhood of those who are proponents of this project? 
    Please do not forget to locate these clinics within very close proximity to
    each judge who voted for this idiocy.  While we are it, “drug
    tax” only those who are in favor or those who fought for and supported
    this program.

    If doctors and other professionals can be sued for mal practice, is there a way
    to sue judges for doing the same thing?

    We can’t even finance disabled and handicapped people to be properly equipped
    in aiding them a little with their mobility and dignity, yet the public are
    asked to aid addiction?  What is next; provide criminals with safe
    equipments to safeguard from harming themselves?  Why not distribute
    free condom to repeat offenders or serial rapists as well?

  49. Narrow minded ‘tunnel vision experts’ continue to regurgitate the same old programmed crap in response to this issue. The evidence is there, look at the last fifty years of FACTS available for the situation. LOOK at the recently generated SCIENTIFIC DATA available, think! grow! adapt! drop the bias!
    I am sick of conservative red necks pissing away citizens tax dollars to support a mantra that is ANTISOCIAL and detrimental to people.

    Want to solve the associated crime… replace the supplier, dispense the drug, POOF 100% of the crime disappears! What does that save per year? What percentage of addicts became aids/ hiv infected due to the old policies? How much does that cost per year? Heroin is dirt cheap to manufacture, the government could provide it at a price no illegal dealer could ever match, POOF gone are the drug wars over heroin territory, the murders for debts, the crime related issues.

    It is past due for courts to represent citizens and protect them against these zealots who just spew and dictate programmed mantra and ignore scientific facts, health issues and the safety of addicts.

    It is my guess alcohol junkies are not pigeon holed in the same manner as the rest of the addicts in society by these zealots, but they definitely responsible for far far more cost to the health care system.

  50. Yet, while we subsidize drug addicts, Diabetics (both Type 1 and Type 2), who all eventually need insulin at some point, are harassed, denied access to subsidized needles, and impoverished.  (In Ontario, ODSP, Trillium, and Seniors Drug, all discriminated against, while an MPP or MP would be covered! Many Aboriginals are also covered, but no other race is!)  Where are our morals?  Perhaps either the Feds or the Province will be kind enough to set up gas chambers for us soon.  What way, “this problem” can be made to disappear….  We need fewer Diabetics, in Canada you see.  But Drug Addicts?  We help those immigrate here!  It’s because we have a shortage of drug addicts.  

  51. A kilo of heroin probably costs less then $50 to produce. Yet the pharma companies will sell it to the government for $50 per gram. Let the addicts pay for their drugs, just make it 1/4th of street price and the black market will be killed off, there will be massive profits to fund the programs that help addicts.

    By the way opiates are among the least neurotoxic drugs known to man, Tylenol does more damage to your body They simply do not harm the body when administered properly. Dirty street drugs and the lifestyle under prohibition is what causes harm.

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