SIMON NATTRASS: Drug ‘bust’ only moves buyers around

It was William S. Burroughs, beat author and self-professed morphine addict, who said it best...

It was William S. Burroughs, beat author and self-professed morphine addict, who said it best — “If we wish to annihilate the junk pyramid, we must start with the bottom of the pyramid: the addict in the street, and stop tilting quixotically for the ‘higher ups’ so called, all of whom are immediately replaceable.”

Burroughs was arguing for the need to cure The Junk Sickness — addiction, rather than endlessly picking off mid-level drug dealers whose customers will simply go elsewhere to fill their need. Unfortunately, it seems like no one with the Victoria Police Force or the province’s gang squad has read the 1991 edition of Naked Lunch.

Last week, I wrote about the harassment of harm reduction service providers by officers with the VicPD. Volumes could be written on the continuing harassment of members of the street community, which have been thoroughly detailed in the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group’s ever-relevant report Out of Sight: Policing Poverty in Victoria. According to the report, “the existing marginalization, vulnerability and stigmatization that street-involved people face in their lives may be further entrenched when they are ticketed or charged for minor infractions.” Enforcement, not solutions seems to be the approach at any level of the War on Drugs.

Recent weeks saw two major police busts. The first, carried out by B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, involved two men in Langford in possession of large quantities of cocaine, GHB, pot, meth and 9mm ammunition. The second occurred at The Loft, a downtown art gallery and gathering space, and yielded pot, moonshine, and — judging by the photo provided by VicPD — a negligible amount of several other drugs.

While the first two admittedly don’t sound like the type of people you’d want to run into in a dark alleyway, Loft owner Chris Parent falls short of playing the heartless thug created for media coverage of the bust. In a recent interview, Parent was soft-spoken and polite. He didn’t talk about gun fights or pushing meth to teenage kids — his stories were about seeing artists’ faces light up when they sold their first piece and giving street-involved friends a place to crash.

“We were using the moonshine for tinctures,” mentions Parent, listing off a dozen or so herbs that he kept around the gallery.

The alleged marijuana trade at Parent’s gallery would have had little impact on a region and a province already known for its pot-loving populace. According to police, shutting down The Loft “will put a dent in downtown drug trade as well as the disorder we are working hard to end in the area,” but just ask a dealer in another area how they’re enjoying their new clients. M

Monday’s Simon Nattrass will be moving into the Friday edition of the Victoria News (vicnews.com), starting June 21.

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