Occupy Vancouver and its Drug Problem…

It was the 15th of October, the first day of Occupy Vancouver. I was walking onto the grounds and immediately began to smell marijuana smoke wafting across the stage. It was a couple of hours before anything was planned, so I didn’t really pay too much attention to it.  But, as the day continued, it became obvious that this would become a problem.

A couple days later, I spent my day greeting newcomers- sharing with them why I came to OV, and what other people in the movement were motivated by. I found a couple of card-carrying conservatives- talking to them, it was obvious they were at OV for bedlam. There are a lot of visitors who come for this reason- particularly during the first week.

I started to explain to them I am there because “I cannot afford to take care of my parents when their pension disappears.” That got their attention! Then, I explained to them the story about Iceland, and how they were able to default their national debt and still survive. That got their attention! Then, moments later, someone lit a joint, and the couple hightailed it out of there…

Then there was the day of the day of the first overdose. I remember seeing it mentioned on @ScanBC’s Twitter stream a few minutes after it was discovered. My heart sank, this didn’t sound very good. Luckily, one of our heroic medic volunteers saved this person’s life. But, it was obviously time to stand up and say something.

So, I get onto the Facebook page and suggest we take some action. I started a poll asking if we should allow users of hard drugs to stay on the OV grounds- or, should we give them the option to send them off to a recovery program or leave.  The majority of people online agreed at the time that it was not acceptable for them to stay. But, there was a vocal minority who disagreed very strongly. The conversation went on for two days, without resolution, then was (without warning) erased on Saturday at the time of the next overdose.

I also found news of this incident through ScanBC on Twitter- knew it happened before many people in the camp did. And, this time was tragic- she had passed away in our tent. Until today, we didn’t know the cause of her death- but it was released this afternoon that she died from a mix of heroin and cocaine. They found a crack pipe in here pocket- what a senseless waste of a human life…

So, here we are- two confirmed overdoses, and one fatality- yet there is still a reluctance to take action at the camp. The vast majority of Occupy locations have a strict no-drugs policy, but Vancouver still hasn’t got that far. We are just too damn politically correct to make a move like this- rather unfortunate, isn’t it?

If there is to be an Occupy Vancouver 2.0,  it is my hope/understanding that it will begin having a code of conduct. Had we only taken this suggestion a while ago, perhaps things would be better today…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.genuinewitty.com/2011/11/13/occupy-vancouver-and-its-drug-problem/


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  1. a code of conduct is a must!! i am a huge supporter of OVan but intend to be actively against it if it doesn’t adopt a strict code of conduct – no alcohol or drugs within the tent city.

  2. Yes, exactly without a code of conduct, OV has lost its credibility- big time. Many of us have tried, and tried, and tried- unfortunately, too many people ‘respect other’s freedom’. Crazy…

  3. freedom?? how about respect for a greater cause? greater than that one joint or whathave you.

    i wish OVan somehow miraculously wakes up. i’m still hopeful.

    1. Exactly! I’ve made the statement “we could keep 8-12 people comfortable now, or save the lives of 1000’s later. You’d be amazed by how much flack I got for that one…

  4. I should add one thing here- OV is a microcosm of Vancouver’s population. The OV drug problem is directly related to the problems in our city. I’ll be posting an article on this soon- detailing my perspective of moving from Amsterdam (where there is an excellent drug policy) to Vancouver (where drug policy stinks…

  5. Yeah – this issue is a tough one – in solidarity with the international movement, the strict no-drugs policy should be adhered to – for safety and for the credibility of the movement overall. The movement itself, however, does allow for the autonomy of each camp to deal with its own regional issues. In Vancouver, those issues are definitely spearheaded by homelessness and addiction rates. Moving users to a more easily forgotten demise out of the public eye seems a betrayal of their needs.

    I can’t weigh in objectively on this as I’ve lost a family member to addiction her death was a direct result of everyone else trying to impose their solutions based on their misperceptions of what she really needed. Those misperceptions are largely based on ignorance and a simplified understanding of the etiology and effective treatment of the addiction spectrum. Keeping addiction front and center in the public eye would go a long way to help the public understand.

    Unfortunately, it’s not having that effect – if anything, the users at the site are swaying public opinion against the movement because the public and commercial media don’t really WANT to understand. And that makes me very sad, but it is what it is, and the overall efficacy of the movement must be preserved.

    1. Yes, it is an incredibly hard one. My next posting will explain how it may have been a whole less hard- I’d called several city resources to try and get help, and they never came through. Tragic…

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