Vancouver’s police chief says while the department is well-aware of how opioids are taking a toll on the city’s streets, officers will always step in when people are “blatantly breaking the law.”
The statement, made Wednesday at the police headquarters downtown, comes after a number of advocates were quick to call out the agency for seizing products from a marijuana stand at the Downtown Eastside Market last week.
“The VPD is very aware of the terrible consequences of the opioid crisis, and we continue to support evidence-based harm-reduction initiatives,” Chief Adam Palmer said in a statement.
“We are a very fair, progressive, and open-minded police agency, and we were the first to call for ‘treatment on demand’ in 2015. We will continue to support our partners in the health and addictions community to save lives in our city. We will also enforce the trafficking laws of Canada as necessary when people are blatantly breaking the law.”
Overdose Prevention Society founder Sarah Blyth told Black Press Media Friday that the cannabis was part of an opioid-substitution program through High Hopes, a harm-reduction alternative.
Many were quick to question the move by police – including former health minister Terry Lake, who held his position during the worst year of overdose deaths in B.C.’s history. The B.C. Centre on Substance Use said the move made little sense.
Police say that the day before Friday’s seizure, officers conducting routine patrols in the Downtown Eastside located a display of cannabis products, in plain view, at a vendor’s table in the public market at 62 East Hastings Street.
The items were clearly marked for sale, police said, and officers spoke with the market’s executive director who told them the owner ignored requests to leave.
A man responsible for the display, who said it was for medicinal use, was issued a warning by police and directed the man to pack up his things.
But the next day, police said the same display was out again in plain view, including a number of pre-packaged and loose cannabis products, pill capsules, vaping products, and two bottles of an unknown white powder.
“No one would claim responsibility for the products,” police said, and the items seized included:
Police said the videos shared on social media were mis-characterized as a raid, and only “show only a small portion of what occurred and none of the previous informal attempts to resolve this issue.”
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