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Posts Tagged "sales"

11Jun

City council expected to debate policy preventing legal weed sales in DTES

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The debate on a motion proposing easier access for opioid alternatives in the city’s Downtown Eastside is expected to begin again Wednesday, when Vancouver city council meets to discuss policy and strategic priorities.

Submitted by Coun. Rebecca Bligh in late May, the motion titled “Cannabis as an Alternative to Opiates and More Dangerous Drugs on the Downtown Eastside” proposes amending an almost four-year-old exclusion zone keeping medical marijuana from being sold to one of the city’s most vulnerable communities.

“What I’m asking is well-considered exceptions to that rule, and that city staff come back and make recommendations to council,” Bligh told CTV News Vancouver in an interview Tuesday.

Vancouver’s city council approved a restrictive licensing regulation for “medical-cannabis” dispensaries in the Downtown Eastside in 2015, prohibiting marijuana sales on any properties that do not have a property line on either Hastings or Main streets.

In her motion, Bligh suggests the idea behind this exclusion zone was to limit the amount of cannabis being sold to a significantly vulnerable subset of the population. This decision was made before the opioid crisis set in however, and since April 2016, the councillor says more than 3,600 people have died in B.C. due to overdose, including 1,000 people in Vancouver alone.

“I don’t propose this is the right time to simply dismiss the exclusionary zoning, even though studies show in North America exclusionary zoning … it’s just not the best way to go about city planning,” said Bligh.

The councillor cites a study by University of British Columbia cannabis science specialist Dr. M-J Milloy, which showed hard drug users respond better to marijuana than opioid substitution treatment plans.

“We’re hearing form frontline workers and they’re dealing day to day with what’s happening in the Downtown Eastside, and I’ve heard from countless people that this is absolutely something we need to be taking proactive action on,” she said.

As it stands, there are four locations in the DTES with approved Development Permits from the city. Bligh contends, however, that in order to move forward with the mandatory provincial licensing application phase, they would need to shut down with no guarantee they’d be able to re-open. 

The councillor says the city should acknowledge the research done and funded by UBC and Simon Fraser University to ensure policies aren’t restricting a “progressive program” that could help people in the Downtown Eastside.

Referring to Milloy’s research, Bligh says shutting down those shops in the Downtown Eastside would limit people’s ability to access affordable legal marijuana, which could result in them turning back to opioids.

She adds that before the legalization process took hold,  a medicinal cannabis shop was able to sell at prices between three and six dollars per gram, which she says is affordable for people on disability or social assistance programs.

“As the recreational use of cannabis and the licensing that goes with that comes into effect, so does management of the supply chain, and management of the margins,” said Bligh. “Now we’re looking at these shops opening up and their market value for cannabis is now $12-15 per gram, which is totally unaffordable for people on limited income.”

This could effectively rob DTES residents and drug users of access to retail cannabis for the foreseeable future, the councillor claims.

The motion argues that both the Vancouver Overdose Prevention Society and High Hopes Social Enterprise, a DTES support and sustainability organization, support low-cost, legal cannabis options backed by Dr. Evan Wood, the executive director of the BC Centre on Substance Use, as well as Dr. Mark Tyndall, Executive Medical Director for BC Centre for Disease Control, and Dr. M-J Milloy.

Bligh said she believes the city and Vancouver Coastal Health have an opportunity to good for a large group of people working together, however admitted it could be difficult for the health organization to endorse a motion that affects a smaller, yet high-need group of the population.

“Evidence is leaning towards this as a viable recommendaiton and option towards harm reduction, but this would be far too soon for Coastal Health to eb able to bless that, and we deeply respect the work they do,” the councillor said.


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21Feb

Daphne Bramham: B.C. group’s call for legally regulated heroin sales is unfounded

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Desperate times call for desperate and often unfounded measures. And, that’s exactly what a new report from the B.C. Centre on Substance Use is proposing in response to the unabating opioid overdose crisis.

It wants government to immediately clear the way for “heroin compassion clubs.” These would be free-standing co-op stores staffed by health care providers selling untainted heroin — diacetylmorphine — to members at the same price or less than street heroin. It would be free to members who can’t afford it, even though the report acknowledges that the risk of street resale of prescription opioids is greatest when the drugs are free.

And that would all be possible, the report says, because of things like volume discounts and “other economies of scale.”

“It would be precisely measured and dispensed in known quantities and at relatively safe doses,” says the report that was released Thursday. The emphasis has been added.

The heroin would be in powdered form, rather than an injectable liquid, just like it is on the street except this would be untainted heroin, not heroin cut with caffeine to prevent overdoses or any other additives to bulk up the product.

Members would be able to buy a couple of days’ supply and take it home with them.

Membership would be low-barrier, a term that’s not defined in the report.

Applicants would be screened by staff members who are “health care providers,” although not necessarily addictions physicians.

The co-op’s board members would be people with “lived experience” — a.k.a. users and former addicts.

Evan Wood, the head of the B.C. Centre on Substance Abuse, says the proposal is unprecedented so there is no evidence that it would reduce overdose deaths or disrupt organized crime’s role in fentanyl, money laundering or housing affordability, which is what’s advertised on the report’s cover.

“To be fair, we are in an unprecedented situation with fentanyl and the prescription opioids overdose crisis,” Wood said. “We are in uncharted waters.”

The two main goals are keeping users alive and disrupting the evils of organized crime.

These are ambitious albeit inappropriate goals for an organization whose mandate is to “develop, help implement, and evaluate evidence-based approaches to substance use and addiction.”

Using heroin to treat users isn’t new. But every other trial or program has a treatment component whether they’re at Vancouver’s Crosstown Clinic, the PHS Community Services or in European countries.

In Europe, heroin is prescribed with the goal of stabilizing users to a point where they can get jobs, form relationships or switch to other (cheaper) opioid replacement therapies such as methadone or Suboxone. (The annual cost per patient in European prescription-heroin programs ranges from $19,000 in Switzerland to $30,000 in the Netherlands.)

But there’s nothing like this in Canada.

“I’m not aware of the existence of ‘heroin clubs’ anywhere else,” Jann Schumacher from the Swiss-based Ticino, an organization of addictions specialists, said in an email. “In Switzerland the heroin assisted therapy is strongly regulated and always under medical control.

“Our Swiss model (heroin assisted treatment) has strong evidence as a harm reduction method, in getting people into treatment and stabilizing their lives, and in reducing the illegal market.”

To qualify, Swiss patients must have at least two years of opioid dependence and at least two failed tries using other addictions treatment methods. They are only allowed to the drug in pill form and take it with them after being in the program for six months and only if it’s necessary to hold down a job.

Drug-related crime in Switzerland has decreased 90 per cent. But compassion clubs would have no effect on drug-related crimes because members would still have to find some way to buy the heroin.

As for disrupting organized crime, the report suggests that compassion clubs would be competing for sales, influencing both the demand and market for heroin.

“The establishment of a regulated and controlled supply of fentanyl-unadulterated heroin may increase demand for street heroin among persons who use street opioids and force organized crime groups to return to the provision of heroin as part of the illicit drug market,” the report says.

And since violence is criminals’ usual response to unwelcome competition, it seems likely that they will attempt to terrorize compassion clubs out of business.

What makes this proposal all the more absurd is that it is aimed only at British Columbia. Surely, low-barrier access to pure heroin would be a magnet to every opioid user across the continent, let alone Canada.

British Columbia is already the epicentre of the overdose crisis just as it was ground zero for the cannabis legalization movement that began with compassion clubs dispensing so-called “medical marijuana,” which led to an explosion in unlicensed and unregulated pot shops.

It’s also where Canada’s harm-reduction model was birthed with free needles, supervised injection sites and readily available naloxone. But it was supposed to be part of a four-pronged strategy just as Switzerland’s is — a strategy that includes access to treatment and recovery as well as education aimed at dissuading drug use.

But since 2017, the $608 million spent by the B.C. government has gone almost exclusively to harm reduction. Yet, the number of overdose deaths is still rising.

It’s clearly not working and Canadians can’t help noticing now that 9,000 are dead including more than 4,000 in British Columbia. According to an Angus Reid poll released last week, 85 per cent of Canadians want mandatory treatment for opioid addiction. Forget legalization or free drugs, decriminalization was favoured by only 48 per cent.

Although the B.C. Centre on Substance Abuse is proposing a radical and untried solution, Wood dismissed mandatory treatment as an option because it’s unsupported by evidence.

As for decriminalization, Wood said, “The problem with it is that you still leave control of the market to organized crime. The user is not criminalized, but they still have to go to the black market.”

Yet, 20 years’ worth of evidence from Portugal show that paired with assertively promoting treatment and recovery, providing universal access to those programs and enforcing drug trafficking laws, decriminalization works.

There, it not only effectively brought an end to Portugal’s heroin overdose crisis, addiction and usage rates for all drugs including cigarettes and alcohol are now among the lowest in Europe.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne

 


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20Feb

Report coming Thursday to outline proposal for regulated heroin sales

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2Oct

Park board to test out liquor sales at two Vancouver beaches

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The Vancouver park board decided Monday to allow alcohol sales at two Vancouver beach concessions as part of a two-year pilot project.


NICK PROCAYLO / PNG

Want a cold beer on a Vancouver beach in the summer sunshine?

You can next year, but only at roped-off areas at two Vancouver beach concessions.

On Monday, the Vancouver park board approved a concession strategy which includes a two-year pilot to allow liquor sales at the English Bay and Kitsilano Beach concessions from May to September. 

“This is the first step,” said commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung.

It’s a bold step because it’s the first for the park board but “not that bold because it’s already happening,” she added, referring to people drinking alcohol on the sly in parks and beaches, despite public consumption carrying a $230 fine.

The park system needs to evolve with the rise of condo-dwellers who use parks as their backyards, said Kirby-Yung. “We need to give people the ability to enjoy their city.”

The two-location pilot will allow the park board to assess the feasibility of offering booze at other concessions in the next three to five years.

Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon expressed trepidation over the accessibility of liquor in public spaces, “especially at beaches (with) hot sun and alcohol.” But, he said, “it’s certainly worth a trial to see how it would go.”

There has been a growing chorus of calls from the public and politicians to loosen liquor regulations in public spaces and fix Vancouver’s reputation as a “no fun city.”

A survey found that 79 per cent of respondents were in favour of the sale of alcohol beverages at concessions, according to a park board report on its concession strategy. Sixteen per cent disagreed.

Park board general manager Malcolm Bromley said the issue is “polarizing” and the two-year trial duration is to make sure the park board gets it right. “We are in it for the long run,” he said.

The locations were chosen because the concessions already have restaurant operators — Cactus Restaurants Ltd. at English Bay and The Boathouse at Kitsilano Beach — best-suited to get the program up and running, said staff.

The pilot will be conducted beer-garden style. A section of beach at English Bay adjacent to the public walkway would be roped off, while a temporary small patio would be created outside the existing concession at Kitsilano Beach.

Some commissioners expressed concern that creating cordoned-off areas for alcohol-drinkers would encroach on public space.

Park board staff estimated liquor sales could boost sales by 30 to 50 per cent.

The proposal for the pilot was part of a broader concession strategy approved by the park board Monday.

The park board has 13 concession sites which are contracted to third-party operators who get paid a percentage of sales. In recent years, the park board earned between $500,000 to $800,000 a year from the concessions.

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twitter.com/cherylchan




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