Stop the Violence B.C. could be revived to push for drug legalization in response to the fentanyl crisis

published on March 7, 2018 by Travis Lupick in The Georgia Straight

In the early 2010s, a group called Stop the Violence B.C. responded to an increase in gang violence across Metro Vancouver with a campaign to legalize and regulate cannabis.

The prohibition of marijuana was creating an economic incentive for gang violence, their thinking went. Therefore, laws that forbid marijuana were doing more harm than any consumption of the plant itself.

By 2015, the federal Liberal party had adopted the same position, and now the government is scheduled to legalize and regulate cannabis before the end of this summer.

Dr. Evan Wood was a vocal member of Stop the Violence and today holds the position of director of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use. In a telephone interview, he said there’s talk about getting Stop the Violence back together, this time to advocate for the legalization and regulation of all drugs.

“There really needs to be a conversation that moves beyond just cannabis,” Wood told the Straight. “A conversation needs to be had on the question of fentanyl, acknowledging that fentanyl is a natural consequence of prohibition.”

Wood described a phenomenon called the “iron law of prohibition”.

“Originally, there was opium, a natural product from the poppy plant that was not nearly as toxic as heroin,” he began. As authorities cracked down on opium, innovation led criminal organizations to shift to heroin because it was more potent, less bulky, and therefore easier to smuggle past authorities. Next, America’s “war on drugs” made it increasingly risky to cultivate the poppy fields required for heroin production. “So we discovered that you can make opioids without actually growing a poppy, that we can synthesize it [fentanyl] in a laboratory,” Wood concluded.

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