CANNABIS CULTURE – British Columbia is holding a snap election. In my using of Vancouver-Kingsway, I lastly have an opportunity to vote for an actual progressive drug peace activist, who’s saying all the suitable stuff about drug coverage. I requested Scott Bernstein of the BC Inexperienced Social gathering among the questions which can be on my thoughts. See when you discover any distinction between his solutions and the non-answers you normally get from a typical politician.
David Malmo-Levine: Mr. Bernstein, are you able to inform the readers of Hashish Tradition among the expertise you could have 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 legislation scholar at UBC, I grew to become concerned within the Insite authorized case. I ended up engaged on that case via all ranges of court docket over the following 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 concerning the authorized influence 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 International Drug Coverage Program. My portfolio was centered on serving to to activate (largely via funding, convening and strategic planning) a worldwide motion of drug coverage reformers to answer the UN Normal Meeting Particular Session (UNGASS) on medicine that occurred 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 instances, 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 method in a number of US states and in Portugal, which has change into a mannequin that some are suggesting we in Canada emulate. Not too long ago, the Canadian Affiliation of Chiefs of Police articulated a mannequin of decriminalization that will substitute one degree of police intervention (criminalization) for an additional (diversion). I really feel that Canadians as a complete aren’t comfy with “large brother” medical surveillance fashions corresponding to Portugal, and our “made in Canada” method must be a lot completely different. My feeling is that when 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 limitations to accessing companies – it appears logical that the required motion is for police to easily “stand down.” We don’t have to produce other mechanisms in place earlier than reforming legislation and/or coverage that directs police to face down on drug possession and different low-level drug offences, and we must always not watch for 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 so forth.) and deciding the place this cash is finest spent. We might select to ramp up remedy or hurt discount companies, however decriminalization shouldn’t be held hostage to that. Fines, pressured remedy, and drug courts are horrible concepts that merely substitute one degree of punishment for an additional 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 presently 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 seem 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 technique or one other.
DML: You’re operating within the upcoming provincial election in British Columbia on October twenty fourth, 2020, as a member of the BC Inexperienced Social gathering. Are you able to please clarify the facility dynamics of the Inexperienced/NDP coalition that presently 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 might be hoping to realize when you enhance your electoral good points 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 companies, 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 essentially 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 sturdy go well with of the BC Greens, and that’s one thing I’ve been working – as a brand new member of the get together and candidate – to treatment. To that finish, I’ve been working with the get together to develop their present platform to incorporate sturdy, 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 medicine 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 absolutely 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 get together has taken with respect to drug coverage was to not assist 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 influence of this legislation would disproportionately have an effect on indigenous younger folks. The BC Greens had been proper to cease this invoice, however – if given a majority authorities – it’s doubtless that the NDP will resurrect this dangerous 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 laws?
Bernstein: As industries with the potential to assist sustainable financial improvement in BC, the hashish and hemp markets are crucial to me. In making a newly authorized business round non-medical hashish, we have now 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 most of the suggestions of specialists round creating such a system. We have to loosen restrictions so as to create a system that enables craft growers extra entry to the market and permit wise advertising of hashish to compete with the entrenched alcohol business 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, corresponding to worth reforms and house for higher high quality merchandise with much less packaging.
The dearth of assist for industrial hemp is, at current, a misplaced alternative to assist a renewable, sustainable, and economical business that might assist to transition us away from fossil fuels and using different non-renewable or environmentally dangerous merchandise corresponding to cotton. If elected, I’d assist an in-depth assessment of our provincial hashish and hemp insurance policies in direction of creating ones which can be evidence-based and higher assist these industries in BC. We have to reform these insurance policies. I’ll proceed to work with the BC Inexperienced get together to tackle these coverage positions and can, myself, advocate for them throughout this marketing campaign when I’ve the chance.
DML: How can folks change into concerned together with your marketing campaign in the event that they need to help you in getting elected, except for voting and inspiring their buddies to vote Inexperienced?
Bernstein: I’m operating a largely digital marketing campaign with a really small employees (me) and some volunteers. I’m positively the underdog on this using, however want everybody to encourage their family and friends to vote Inexperienced so as to assist us stake out the place of evidence-based insurance policies within the province. I’d admire 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 problem that wants consciousness and one by which the NDP has not performed very effectively on.
Folks can comply with me on Twitter – @scott_bern – and like my Facebook page .
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