In a move that has drawn a wide range of responses from all corners of the globe, a Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO) has installed the first-ever crack pipe vending machines in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Portland Hotel Society, a drug treatment facility in British Columbia, established the brightly colored polka-dot dispensers as a method of fighting the spread of HIV and other diseases among addicts.
The concern is that as crack pipes heat and become overused, they are more prone to chipping, which can then cut users’ mouths and contribute to the spread of disease among those who share the pipes. These fresh crack pipes can be had for cheaper than most vending machines sell snacks, too; at 25 cents a pop, purchasing a new pipe becomes affordable for users.
Kailin See, Director of the Drug Users’ Resource Centre for the Portland Hotel Society, says that drug users with colds, cold sores, or other infections – including more serious infections such as HIV – can spread illness like wildfire among their population with chipped and cracked pipes. She says that it’s the Portland Hotel Society’s hope that these vending machines can combat the spread of illness across this population.
There are some, however, who believe that such a vending machine can be dangerous. Destiny Brereton, who watched both her parents battle addiction, says that the machines are dangerous because addicts “can’t be around them.”
“People fighting their addictions can’t be around them because it is too much temptation,” she says.
According to the Portland Hotel Society, though, the program is designed to provide crack addicts a setting in which they can look for treatment options. The vending machine program has the blessing of city officials and the local police department, which makes the Canadian NGO the first to install crack pipe vending machines. One high-ranking Conservative is not impressed by the organization’s decision to go ahead with the crack pipe vending machines, however.
Canadian Federal Safety Minister Steven Blaney told Canadian news agency QMI that he believes that drug use and abuse can lead to infringements on the law. He says that law enforcement should do their job rather than support the program, as consumption of crack cocaine is against the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Mark Townsend, a manager at the Portland Hotel Society, notes that the vending machines actually serve as an access point to resources out of addiction. Many outreach workers in Vancouver note that British Columbia’s approach to drug addiction has become a convenient target for Conservatives, who want to limit access to drugs and associated paraphernalia, while they believe that the resources provided to addicts allow them to be as safe as possible in using the drugs and reduce the risk of spreading disease and infection.
In installing the first-ever crack pipe vending machines, Canadian NGO the Portland Hotel Society has continued to promote Vancouver’s continued vigilance in helping stop the spread of infection and disease throughout the addicted population. However, the program continues to draw criticism at the Canadian federal government level and has brought increased focus to the Portland Hotel Society and other drug treatment centers in the area.
By Christina St-Jean