Oh, Canada, indeed! Vancouver has welcomed the very first crack pipe vending machines. The machines have been funded by a non-profit organization in an effort to stop users from spreading disease.
Back in 2011, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority distributed over 60,000 clean pipes throughout the city. The project was declared a complete success, thus the birth of the crack pipe vending machines.
The pipes, made out of Pyrex, cost only 25 cents. The idea for the vending machines was brought about by Mariner Janes and Mark Townsend, founders of the Portland Hotel Society, a not for profit organization that aids those with addiction and mental health issues. Each crack pipe vending machine holds 200 pipes and usually needs to be filled more than once a week.
Kailin See, the director of the Drug Users Resource Center, says that this is all about easier and safer access to what she refers to as inhalation supplies. See says that the vending machines give addicts the option to purchase as many of the pipes as they need instead of other programs that only allow one pipe per person per day. This way users are dissuaded from sharing pipes or using unsafe pipes that may be chipped or broken. The problem being that when one shares a pipe they are sharing everything from the flu and cold sores to HIV. If a user cuts their lip on a pipe that has been used by someone who is infected they run the risk of catching their diseases.
The machines themselves are very unassuming in that they look no different from your typical vending machine. The crack pipe vending machines are covered in brightly colored polka dots and the only way to tell that these aren’t your average candy machines is the blue sign that reads “PIPES” at the top. Then, of course, there are the machine’s contents. See says that the funny look of the machine is part of the appeal. There is such a stigma attached to crack pipes and they wanted the vending machines to look less frightening.
All joking aside, See says that she hopes that the crack pipe vending machines will lead to further discussion about the benefits of the safe use of drug paraphernalia. See says that this is just one tiny piece of a very large puzzle. There also needs to be talk of treatment and detox, but there really needs to be a safe place to purchase clean drug supplies.
Not everyone is on board with Vancouver’s first crack pipe vending machines. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney wishes to limit the public’s access to random drug paraphernalia. In a statement given over the weekend, Blaney says that the government does not support the crack pipe vending machines, rather they support any treatment that will end drug use.
Mark Townsend, Portland Hotel Society’s manager, came back by saying that it’s easy to criticize the crack pipe vending machines is you aren’t aware of the details. Claiming that it’s more complicated than it seems, Townsend says that they are merely trying to make sure the users are able to live long enough to seek out treatment when they are ready.
The crack pipe vending machines in downtown Vancouver may seem to some a bit unorthodox in terms of cracking down on drug use. User safety is the main goal of the Drug Users Resource Center. All one needs is a quarter.
By: Mary Kay Love