Cannabis Substitution Project claims its free ‘care packages’ help opioid users kick

published on March 22, 2018 by Saša Lakić in Vancouver Courier

City won’t support efforts without rigorous scientific evidence and changes in drug laws

Last Sunday, roughly 150 people lined up at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) building on East Hastings Street and waited their turn to be let in and given a free bag of cannabis products. Depending on the week, the package usually contains two or three kinds of edibles, a couple of joints, a capsule of THC oil and sometimes infused honey.

The packages are doled out by Neil Magnuson who started the Cannabis Substitution Project more than year ago for drug users looking to ease their cravings for opioids.

Brad Williamson, who makes use of the program, rolled joints with two other volunteers at one of the two rolling stations inside VANDU. The recovering heroin user said in the two years he has been complementing his methadone use with cannabis, he has not relapsed. Before he embarked on a “marijuana maintenance program,” he would relapse whenever he tried to quit cold turkey. Without a consistent supply of cannabis, the withdrawal symptoms were too taxing, he said, even after taking Kadian, a slow-release morphine drug, which he takes to detox from methadone. He said the cannabis suppresses the sickness that comes with eliminating opioids.

“As far as symptoms go, edibles are way better. They cure more symptoms for me. Edibles actually help with the nausea,” Williamson said. “Now that I have used marijuana as a maintenance for that, it actually helps.”

Man with a plan

Throughout the week, Magnuson, a long-time pot activist and co-organizer of Cannabis Day and the 4/20 festival at Sunset Beach, collects donations from local cannabis companies, such as Apothecary Labs, Green Wilderness and Cannabis Culture, and puts together the packages, while volunteers help rolling on the day of distribution.

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