September 17, 2003


Vancouver injection clinic opens for addicts (JANE ARMSTRONG, Sep. 16, 2003, Globe and Mail)

With the kind of hype normally reserved for a Hollywood movie premiere, Vancouver has opened North America's first legal shooting gallery for drug addicts.

Politicians from every level joined police and civic activists yesterday morning at a tastefully restored storefront on Vancouver's seamy East Hastings Street. The turn-of-the century building has been transformed into a clinic where addicts can use illegal intravenous drugs in a medically supervised setting.

And it is quite a setting. Airy and modern, with individual cubicles discreetly divided for privacy, the clinic seems worlds away from the grimy streets just outside its front door.

Were it not for trays of needles and tourniquets at each seat, the spacious clinic, complete with snack bar and original artwork, could pass for an upscale salon or spa. [...]

The clinic is a significant victory for Mayor Larry Campbell, who promised to reform Vancouver's drug policies in his mayoral campaign last year. After winning the election, he lobbied federal health officials and a reluctant local police department to support the pilot project.

Yesterday's opening was also a vindication for former mayor Philip Owen, whose party turned on him when he warmed to the plan.

Both men attended the opening.

Mr. Campbell, a former coroner, promised that the clinic, over time, will improve the lives of addicts in the troubled neighbourhood.

"You're not going to see a magical change in the Downtown Eastside," he told the crowd. "But over a period of time you will see a change. And over a period of time you will see health start to return."

He said the clinic alone will not solve the drug problems in the Downtown Eastside, but it gives medical staff a chance to talk to addicts one-on-one.

"We are never, ever going to cure drug addiction. Never. But what we can do is help those who have that addiction to stay alive and stay healthy until we can help them get into some sort of treatment," Mr. Campbell said.

Plenty, especially libertarians and leftists, would like to do the same thing here. You've got to marvel at folks who believe that saying "under God" in the Pledge represents a dangerous endorsement of religion by the State but that having the government set up shooting galleries and legalize drugs is a way to get folks to stop using them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2003 10:36 AM

Well, they are victims of an oppressive superstructure, after all. Who are we to judge?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at September 17, 2003 10:47 AM

One way to help get folks to stop using them is stop hospitals providing anything but palliative (or whatever the word is for food/water sustanence)to overdosed drug users.

This scheme is just like a lifelong welfare entitlement.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 17, 2003 11:24 AM

Most people who get caught up on the
"Canadien cities are cleaner, nicer, more
modern" thing conveniently leave out the
fact that their addicts and street vagrants move
about unfettered to bother respectable people
in all parts of the city.

In general Canadian cities are smaller and
possible have fewer disparities between
"nice" and "bad" sections of town, but clearly
there are fundamental problems in many of
these places.

I'd rather see a little graffitti and here a few
sirens in the distance than have to walk over
these lowlifes on the street.

Posted by: J.H. at September 17, 2003 12:18 PM

I have a certain sympathy for the theory that delivery of addictive drugs will be reduced by socalizing it.

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 17, 2003 12:44 PM

The last time I was in beautiful Vancouver I walked a little too far, into a jungle of men lying on the sidewalks soaked in their own urine and out of their mind. Not just a few, but many.

That was about four years ago and perhaps this is now the residents way of cleaning the streets. Wait till the word gets out. Euthenasia may be the next step.

Posted by: genecis at September 17, 2003 12:53 PM

Shooting gallery? Did someone say shooting gallery? I think I see the seeds of a solution. First we get all the junkies in one place.....

Posted by: Jason Johnson at September 17, 2003 1:11 PM

So, as I understand it, they don't hand out the drugs. The addicts have to buy it illegally like they always have. So the various crimes and hazards associated with that won't diminish at all -- they'll just have a nice clean place to shoot up & get a snack.

I wonder what the chances are that the local police will crack down so effectively on drug dealers that the city's high-tone shooting gallery will go mostly unused?

Sheesh. The city might as well underwrite the dealing part of the problem as well, if they're going to collude with the activity -- why go half way?


Posted by: Twn at September 17, 2003 1:22 PM

The worst vacationing experience of my life--worse than missing two different planes within 24 hours in Europe--was in Vancouver, and for exactly the reason mentioned here. Instead of putting all their slums in one convenient area, they scatter them throughout the city, leading an unsuspecting family to rent a hostel room in the middle of druggie-car theif central. I've never seen that many street people, even in Santo Domingo. And they were far better behaved there.

Posted by: Timothy at September 17, 2003 2:42 PM


That might actually work, because recent effort by the Candadian government to grow marijuana for medical purposes ended in abject failure, among other reasons because they couldn't grow potent stuff.

Mr. Judd;

A real libertarian would never support this kind of government subsidy for a private activity.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 17, 2003 6:17 PM


The Annoying Old Guy nailed it, "a real libertarian would never support this kind of government subsidy".

Libertarianism is very principled.

Your attacks are based on a mis-representation.

I always wondered how people like the Clintons could ever get elected, much less re-elected.

If natural allies like real conservatives and libertarians have enough disagreements, maybe we'll have more Clintons.

Why slam libertarians? I really don't get it.

Posted by: Richard at September 17, 2003 6:33 PM


Libertarians are de facto statists.

Posted by: OJ at September 17, 2003 6:37 PM


Actually, that's not true at all. Why would you say something like that?

By definition, they are not statists at all. One prototype being your buddy Albert Jay Nock.

Posted by: Richard at September 17, 2003 6:43 PM


Maybe a better way of saying it is that statists are de-facto not libertarians.

What are you seeing that makes you say this?

Posted by: Richard at September 17, 2003 6:45 PM


Because OJ is convinced that the alternative to being a religious conservative is believing in human perfectability, given the right social conditions.

Which only a state can proved. Hence secularist libertarians are statists.

That position isn't at all unlike saying that unless your car is white, it is going to be dirty.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 17, 2003 9:00 PM


I guess that means the non-sequitor tag line is a correct representation, too, huh?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 18, 2003 7:33 AM


Yes, libertarians assume that because they start with a white car (absolute liberty) they end with it clean (a state of freedom).

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2003 8:15 AM


I was talking about your assumption, not libertarians'.

One doesn't have to be a religious conservative to conclude human nature is essentially immutable.

In fact, virtually any Evolutionist would take that as a given. Which makes that point of view far better grounded in terms of time than any extant religious viewpoint on the matter.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 18, 2003 11:44 AM


I'm continually amazed by the elasticity of Darwinism in your imagination. If evolution stands for any proposition it is that nothing is immutable, that the bundle of behaviors we call "human nature" will inevitablty respond to environmental selection pressures. I agree with you that such a notion is intolerable, but I'm not contsrained by a religious fath (in Darwin) from saying so.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2003 11:57 AM

Orrin & Jeff,

I see where you have taken a wrong turn:

"Libertarianism in its most extreme, or most immature, form rebels
against the notion that even God can limit liberty."

What you are describing here is not libertarianism.

Libertarians believe that "men are endowed by their Creator with
certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the
Pursuit of Happiness".

If you want to call that religious conservatism, so be it. But it comes from the libertarian, Thomas Jefferson.

Posted by: Richard at September 18, 2003 1:12 PM


Sorry, I sacrificed clarity on the alter of brevity.

By "essentially immutable" I meant over time spans even remotely comparable to human lifetimes.

Human nature as it exists today is far older than any extant religion.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 18, 2003 10:19 PM