CANNABIS CULTURE – British Columbia is holding a snap election. In my driving of Vancouver-Kingsway, I lastly have an opportunity to vote for an actual progressive drug peace activist, who’s saying all the precise stuff about drug coverage. I requested Scott Bernstein of the BC Inexperienced Occasion a number of the questions which can be on my thoughts. See when you discover any distinction between his solutions and the non-answers you often get from a typical politician.
David Malmo-Levine: Mr. Bernstein, are you able to inform the readers of Hashish Tradition a number of the expertise you have got had being a drug peace and hurt discount activist with teams such because the Canadian Drug Coverage Coalition, the Open Society Foundations and Pivot Authorized Society?
Candidate Scott Bernstein: I started my profession in drug coverage and hurt discount 13 years in the past when, whereas nonetheless a regulation scholar at UBC, I turned concerned within the Insite authorized case. I ended up engaged on that case by way of all ranges of courtroom over the subsequent 4 years. It launched me to a lot of my hurt discount heroes, together with Dean Wilson, Liz Evans and Donald MacPherson, and taught me the significance of compassion and understanding about all types of drug use and proof in driving drug coverage. As a brand new lawyer, I ended up touchdown a job with Pivot Authorized Society, and revived their well being and drug coverage advocacy. Among the many issues I did there throughout my three years was to launch a authorized case towards the town of Abbotsford opposing their anti-harm discount bylaw and a case towards the federal authorities for entry to prescription heroin. I additionally wrote a report in regards to the authorized affect of necessary minimal sentences on individuals who use medicine, which was being put ahead by the Harper authorities on the time. After Pivot, I labored for Open Society Basis within the World Drug Coverage Program. My portfolio was centered on serving to to activate (largely by way of funding, convening and strategic planning) a world motion of drug coverage reformers to reply to the UN Basic Meeting Particular Session (UNGASS) on medicine that happened in 2016. I additionally helped to construct a nascent drug coverage motion in Africa. Most just lately, I’m director of coverage for the Canadian Drug Coverage Coalition primarily based at SFU. We’re a nationwide coalition of 55 organizations throughout Canada advocating for reforms primarily based on public well being, human rights and social inclusion. I lead our work on decriminalization, authorized regulation of all medicine, secure provide, and worldwide advocacy.
DML : One of many pitfalls of drug peace activism has been “decriminalization”. Whereas there are some examples of decriminalization leading to – or aiming for – punishment elimination, most examples contain punishment-switching, net-widening and in some circumstances, will increase in enforcement and incarceration. What sort of decriminalization initiatives have you ever been concerned with?
Bernstein: I’m effectively conscious of the potential for decriminalization to imply punishment of drug use/customers by one other identify. We see examples of this strategy in a number of US states and in Portugal, which has turn into a mannequin that some are suggesting we in Canada emulate. Just lately, the Canadian Affiliation of Chiefs of Police articulated a mannequin of decriminalization that may substitute one degree of police intervention (criminalization) for one more (diversion). I really feel that Canadians as a complete aren’t snug with “large brother” medical surveillance fashions akin to Portugal, and our “made in Canada” strategy must be a lot completely different. My feeling is that if you find yourself at some extent of recognizing the harms that criminalization, enforcement, and incarceration have in our society – together with creating stigma, difficulties in employment and journey, financial hardship to people, wasted taxpayer prices, and actual obstacles to accessing providers – it appears logical that the required motion is for police to easily “stand down.” We don’t must produce other mechanisms in place earlier than reforming regulation and/or coverage that directs police to face down on drug possession and different low-level drug offences, and we should always not look ahead to that to occur. I’m in favour of us taking a look on the cost-savings of decreasing prison justice engagement (i.e. police, courts, and many others.) and deciding the place this cash is finest spent. We might select to ramp up remedy or hurt discount providers, however decriminalization shouldn’t be held hostage to that. Fines, compelled remedy, and drug courts are horrible concepts that merely substitute one degree of punishment for one more and haven’t any place in a Canadian mannequin of decriminalization.
I’ve been working with different advocates to push the federal and BC authorities to take motion to decriminalize urgently. I was involved in this letter and have been in conversations with authorities officers on the federal and provincial degree,. I’m at the moment main a nationwide working group of advocates aiming to coordinate our efforts for change. We’re creating instruments to raise the dialog nationally and dealing to fill within the coverage gaps round what decriminalization ought to appear like. I additionally co-invented a collaborative, role-playing board sport designed to show most people about selections with decriminalization and the ensuing outcomes of going a method or one other.
DML: You might be working within the upcoming provincial election in British Columbia on October twenty fourth, 2020, as a member of the BC Inexperienced Occasion. Are you able to please clarify the facility dynamics of the Inexperienced/NDP coalition that at the moment determines coverage on a provincial degree, if the Greens have been capable of have an effect on any insurance policies on account of the coalition (particularly drug coverage) and what goals you’re hoping to realize when you improve your electoral beneficial properties this time round?
Bernstein: BC was acknowledged as having probably the most efficient provincial governments during the last 3.5 years, largely on account of the Confidence and Provide Settlement the NDP made with the Greens. The BC Inexperienced representatives have been capable of form provincial coverage to enhance it in areas of the atmosphere, social providers, and the financial system. Calling a snap election throughout a pandemic was a craven and unthoughtful transfer by the NDP, notably when the federal government was truly working very successfully. It additionally violated the settlement the NDP had made to not achieve this. Drug coverage has not all the time been the robust go well with of the BC Greens, and that’s one thing I’ve been working – as a brand new member of the social gathering and candidate – to treatment. To that finish, I’ve been working with the social gathering to develop their present platform to incorporate robust, evidence-based proposals, together with enlargement of secure provide for not solely elevated entry throughout the province, but additionally a wider collection of selections of medication and the way folks get them; decriminalization by getting a federal exemption the Managed Medication and Substances Act and reforms to the Police Act; and totally funding the Ministry of Psychological Well being and Addictions, which is vastly underfunded for coping with the overdose disaster. One notable motion that the Inexperienced social gathering has taken with respect to drug coverage was to not help Invoice-22, which might have led to the involuntary confinement and remedy of younger folks with problematic substance use. This invoice was opposed by First Nations, who noticed clearly that the affect of this regulation would disproportionately have an effect on indigenous younger folks. The BC Greens have been proper to cease this invoice, however – if given a majority authorities – it’s probably that the NDP will resurrect this unhealthy laws with out anybody to cease it.
DML: Is there room on the platform, in your messaging or in your actions as soon as elected for reform of the legal guidelines surrounding hashish rising, promoting and use in BC? Is there any risk of reform of commercial hemp rules?
Bernstein: As industries with the potential to help sustainable financial improvement in BC, the hashish and hemp markets are essential to me. In making a newly authorized trade round non-medical hashish, we’ve the chance to treatment the harms of prohibition and form a market that helps fairness and social justice. Sadly, the mannequin put in place by the federal and BC governments ignored lots of the suggestions of consultants round creating such a system. We have to loosen restrictions to be able to create a system that enables craft growers extra entry to the market and permit wise advertising and marketing of hashish to compete with the entrenched alcohol trade so that individuals can select a safer drug to devour. We have to combat to take away different prison penalties that accompanied authorized regulation for these working outdoors of the authorized market. As an alternative, I advocate for incentives to draw customers to the authorized market, akin to value reforms and area for higher high quality merchandise with much less packaging.
The shortage of help for industrial hemp is, at current, a misplaced alternative to help a renewable, sustainable, and economical trade that would assist to transition us away from fossil fuels and the usage of different non-renewable or environmentally dangerous merchandise akin to cotton. If elected, I’d help an in-depth evaluation of our provincial hashish and hemp insurance policies in direction of creating ones which can be evidence-based and higher help these industries in BC. We have to reform these insurance policies. I’ll proceed to work with the BC Inexperienced social gathering to tackle these coverage positions and can, myself, advocate for them throughout this marketing campaign when I’ve the chance.
DML: How can folks turn into concerned together with your marketing campaign in the event that they wish to help you in getting elected, apart from voting and inspiring their mates to vote Inexperienced?
Bernstein: I’m working a largely digital marketing campaign with a really small workers (me) and some volunteers. I’m undoubtedly the underdog on this driving, however want everybody to encourage their family and friends to vote Inexperienced to be able to assist us stake out the place of evidence-based insurance policies within the province. I’d recognize assist in amplifying the social and conventional media that my marketing campaign is producing. As a complete, we have to elevate drug coverage and the overdose disaster as a difficulty that wants consciousness and one during which the NDP has not achieved very effectively on.
Individuals can comply with me on Twitter – @scott_bern – and like my Facebook page .
If persons are enthusiastic about volunteering or donating to the marketing campaign, they will do this here.