BC Greens pitch more drug inhalation sites as decriminalization debate continues: Rob Shaw

BC Greens pitch more drug inhalation sites as decriminalization debate continues: Rob Shaw

The Green Party of British Columbia is calling on the NDP government to allow inhalation of drugs at all supervised consumption sites as a way to help address concerns about drug use in public spaces and at hospitals in the wake of decriminalization.

B.C. has had supervised consumption sites for almost 20 years, but they’ve mostly served people who inject drugs and not those who smoke them.

Yet, smoking now accounts for 71 per cent of overdose deaths.

The Greens say one way to get people to stop smoking drugs in public places and hospitals, which has dominated the political discourse over decriminalization over the last few weeks – is to equip all sites with the ventilation, equipment and staff necessary to allow inhalation, giving users a place to go.

Barely half of B.C.’s 50 supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites allow inhalation or smoking, though six of the nine sites on Vancouver Island do.

“If we want to solve the problem of people smoking drugs in hospitals or smoking drugs in inappropriate places, part of that is access to safe consumption sites, supervised consumption sites that can handle inhalation,” said B.C. Green leader Sonia Furstenau on Wednesday.

“I note that the BC Nurses Union is asking for this, they are saying that we need that kind of infrastructure in health-care settings,” she said.

Furstenau added that those suffering addictions should get immediate prescription alternatives, so they don’t need to smoke while in hospital.

Government response

On Wednesday, B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside said she’s trying to expand inhalation sites, but they require more infrastructure, like fans, and she adds that some communities don’t want them because they can be a focal point for crime and disorder.

“There’s a number of challenges that have to do with whether they are inside or outside,” she said.

“If they are inside there can be issues with ventilation, there can be issues around ensuring we’re meeting WorkSafe requirements – that we have safe environments for people staffing those sites, as well people who are using them, and of course as well as neighbours in community,” she said.

While critics have been calling for the end of decriminalization altogether, the Greens are suggesting putting more investment into safe consumption sites to see if it lessens problems for nurses and public drug use.


Rob ShawRob Shaw

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