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Posted: January 22, 2023

Drug treatments from one extreme to another

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

What you’re about to read is the truth. And names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

A few years ago, I attended a memorial in the Slocan Valley for one of my best friends and was helping to scatter his ashes in the pristine waters of Slocan Lake. I can tell you it gives you a spooky feeling to be holding the ashes of someone you’ve known for more than 40 years and then casually cast them back into the lake we’d both fished together.

But so be it. Most of us will have an experience like this sometime before we die.

Then, as the custom seems to be these days, it was time for a memorial party. In this case a barbecue close to the water with 40 or so attending. This too was in the Slocan Valley which has a certain ambience known to many. After the usual salads, burgers and beer were consumed came dessert and, considering where we were, I wasn’t surprised when one of the “desserts” consisted of cannabis cookies made right in the valley by some of the most experienced marijuana growers and bakers to be found anywhere.

Now, I’ve been a non-smoker all my life, but I did smoke a bit of weed in my university days more than 50 years ago but quit soon after graduating. So, I did a little thinking before I reached for the once forbidden fruit. What the hell, I thought. The party atmosphere was warm and convivial. I hadn’t seen some of these people for 30 years and it felt great to be in touch again. Surely a few marijuana cookie crumbs wouldn’t hurt.

So, I reached for the plate and thanked the host who warned me the cookies were very potent. But I disregarded the warning. It’s not like I’m shooting up with cocaine or some other opiate, I thought. They’re only marijuana cookies. Yum, yum.

The party continued and I remember looking at the clock about a half-hour later and saying to myself “can’t feel a damn thing.” Barely 10 minutes later, I looked at the wall again and honest to God I couldn’t even see the clock! Nor could I tell time which seemed to have stopped altogether.

Despite my torpor, I managed to get to my feet, stumble over to my wife Sandy, who wisely had not partaken of the Devil Weed, and whispered to her in a hoarse voice, we’ve got to get out of here. And get out we did as I told Sandy I was in no shape to drive.

Sandy, bless her, drove but our destination was a friend’s isolated cabin off the grid and along a narrow, forested ridge overlooking a deep ravine. When we got close to it Sandy lost her sense of direction in the darkness and was heading straight for the edge when I suddenly woke up from La La Land and grabbed the wheel and steered us away from the brink before I passed out again. Why I did this, I’ll never know but I guess someone didn’t want us to die. You can speculate however you want on who or what saved us. But I can’t stop thinking it was some kind of a spiritual force.

We never did find our friend’s cabin and we ended up driving to a nearby community and spent the night in a motel. I woke up the next morning still stoned and fervently thanking my maker that we were still alive. I certainly didn’t deserve to be.

In all honesty, I really don’t like talking about this. But in light of the provincial government’s recent decision to decriminalize possession of “small amounts” of deadly drugs like heroin, cocaine, fentanyl et al, I’m offering this story as a cautionary tale.

Surely consuming even “small amounts” of drugs is dangerous because the drugs of today are so much stronger than the drugs of a generation ago. In a government release announcing the plan it says B.C. is experiencing a “toxic drug crisis” as if anyone in the province didn’t know or hadn’t seen shocking pictures of addicted drug users overrunning Hastings Street in Vancouver and many other skid-row streets in the province.

“Substance use is a public health matter,” says the government announcement. Decriminalization will reduce the stigma of drug abuse and enable addicts to get the medical aid and social support they need to kick their habit. Or so the theory goes. This approach has supposedly worked in some jurisdictions but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work here.

A generation ago you could get 20 years in jail for toking up. Now they’re going to give addicts more of the drugs killing them as well as some “treatment.” Is this going to work in an era where marijuana cookies are strong enough to endanger your life little alone what opioids can do?

Somehow, I doubt it.

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