Pubdate: Tue, 29 Aug 2017
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Matt Kieltyka
Page: 3


High Hopes offers pot to help prevent overdoses Tuesday, August 29,

A community organization in Vancouver has started offering people
marijuana as an alternative to deadly street drugs.

Struggling to contain a fentanyl overdose crisis that has already
killed 232 people in the city this year - more than the 231 deaths in
all of 2016 - the High Hopes Foundation has been operating for a month
now in the Downtown Eastside. Its goal: to link drug users with
community resources, going so far as to give them marijuana as a
substitute for hard drugs.

"What we do is try to save lives, and we're trying to create as many
alternatives as possible for people who may use hard drugs and then
die alone at home," said founder Sarah Blyth, who also organizes the
community's highly publicized overdose prevention sites. "Every day we
see up to 700 people at overdose prevention sites, and we have limited
options for them.

"People keep saying you should give drug access to people,
alternatives, anything better than dying, but no one is doing it. No
one else has got any better ideas from what I can see, so we're doing
our best to do it."

Blyth said marijuana can be an effective substitute for people who use
opiates for pain management or to deal with trauma.

Ideally, people would have access to safe, medically prescribed
opiates to treat their addictions - something health officials and
local authorities are increasingly advocating - but Blyth said the
community can't wait for an official response while hundreds die on
the streets.

"That's the thing, (official solutions) are all down the line. All of
this stuff is so controversial that it takes 10 years to do anything
kind of progressive on this issue, even if it's the right thing to
do," she said. "So we're willing to kind of just do it, do what we can
to get through the bureaucratic process and show that it works."

She hopes the foundation's work, while unsanctioned, is allowed to
operate unimpeded in the same way as the overdose prevention sites.

But on Monday, there were conflicting reports of Vancouver police
shutting down the High Hopes booth over the weekend.

Blyth said a volunteer was told by police to "shut it down" on Sunday
and did so until Blyth arrived on site and re-opened the booth.

High Hopes hadn't had any issues with police until then, she

However, Vancouver police spokesperson Sgt. Jason Robillard said he
couldn't find any confirmation one of the department's officers
ordered High Hopes to close.

On the contrary, he said police support Blyth's work.

"I'm not sure where that information came from. Our position is, and
always has been, that drug addiction is a health problem," Robillard
told Metro. "We've worked with Coastal Health and the province, and
Sarah Blyth as well. We support her and what she's doing. We support
these types of initiatives and programs because we're looking at us
being in a crisis with the fentanyl overdoses, so this peer-to-per
overdose reduction. We definitely support this and always have."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt