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Friday, March 25, 2005

Vansterdam: A Socio/Political Primer

Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.
Vancouver finds itself in an interesting position--literally. Situated as the gateway to the Far East, Vancouver is the main entry port to North America, and is considered by drug dealers to be the landing place of choice.

Canada governs itself in a much more European manner than the United States. As a result, our personal freedoms are more protected, in every way, and this leads us to a more lenient stance on drug enforcement as a whole, but particularly in regards to recreational soft-core drugs like marijuana. While we’re not kind to our heavy dealers, we do have one thing the United States doesn’t, and that’s the lack of a “three-strikes” law, as Clinton enacted.

As a result of Vancouver’s geography and due to no “three strikes,” as well as the large amount of heroin produced in East Asia, Vancouver finds itself as a heroin hotbed.

The heroin problem in Vancouver is one of legion. It’s an insanely long and brutal history with the drug, resulting in a 30-square block area that’s home to some of the worst poverty in North America and one of the highest urban AIDS rates in the western world, thanks to the unsafe use of needles.

That heroin problem also contributes to the second-highest, if not the highest personal property crime rates in North America--higher than New York City.

That said, the cops have their hands full. In their dealings with the fall-out of heroin, as well as crystal meth of late, the police in Vancouver have seen what drug use can really do to a person. While our cops get their flack as much as any urban police force does, the degree of sensitivity towards those hardened drug users can be remarkably sympathetic at times. I, for one, admire it.

But because they’ve seen what real addiction is and the depravity and depths to which one can sink, the cops realize that marijuana’s not even worth the effort to fight. They think their time is better spent trying to help those fully ensnared by hardcore drugs... and they’re right.

Vancouver is hounded by the American government for our inability to stem the heroin trade (and the marijuana trafficking, but that’s another story). They fail to see the immensity of the problem from our perspective.

This city gets 1.5 million containers (a minimum of 20-foot lengths, if not longer) coming through our ports every year, from all around the world. In 2003, 2,600 foreign freighters came through these ports with 66.7 million tonnes of goods, all on its way via air, ground, and sea to other parts of the world. All you need is a pound of cocaine or a kilo of heroin tucked somewhere in that 147 billion pounds of goods. (I own a calculator, ergo am a Math God.)

New York City would have difficulty enforcing searches of that many containers, but in a city the size of Vancouver--a quarter the population of New York (totalling about 2 million Vancouverites)--the logistics are mind-numbing and the possibility of effective control? Next to nil. And we know it.

Our customs officers and police officers are stretched to the max trying to keep heroin off the streets. It’s the greatest bane this city has known, and none of us citizens are proud to know we’re home to one of the world’s worst heroin scenes. We’re all concerned. It’s the biggest issue every time we have an election. But it’s hard to solve that problem, and the governments from the nations in which the drugs originate, they deserve a great deal of the blame.

But it’s due to the chaos of the heroin situation that our civic and provincial governments are almost completely hands-off when it comes to recreational indulgence in marijuana.

As a result, Vancouver, British Columbia has become one of the top places in the world to not only smoke dope, but to grow it. A great deal of our dope is grown indoors in hydroponic labs, but you can still get the real-deal forest-yield, too. Our local growers have developed some of the finest growth techniques in the world, resulting marijuana that consistently wins as the world’s best in the annual “Cannabis Cup” held by that legendary mag High Times.

That’s just some of how Vancouver got to be how it is when it comes to the dance with Mary-Jane. I’ll talk soon about the culture of Vancouver and how its love affair with the leaf has come to colour the entire Lotus Land lifestyle. It’s a beautiful thing.