Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and concision.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you become interested in drug policy in Canada?
Nick Cristiano: I majored in sociology in school. I have always been interested in deviance. I became very interested in drug use. My reason for being interested was seeing it. Also, it was a grey area. It was not clearly wrong. Other crimes seemed less grey to me. I was interested in studying drug use because I found that the laws and stigmas arbitrary.
Murder is clearly wrong. Drug use, you need to know the climate to know why it’s deviant. In my masters, I continued research on drug use. I made a commitment to this path. I am happy. I went further than I originally thought. I became acquainted with both the academic research as well as the stuff happening on the ground. That’s how I became involved with CSSDP. I wanted to move away from studying drug use. I wanted to become involved with an organization where I could build contacts and fight for things important to me.
Jacobsen: You are an executive board member for CSSDP. What tasks and responsibilities come with this position?
Cristiano: My position on the executive board is a personnel liaison. I am the human resources person. I make sure everyone is happy and in pursuit of something interesting to them. We want people to tap into their passions.
You want to love what you’re doing for the organization. Otherwise, you’re not going to do it if you don’t enjoy it. As part of the executive board, I am a vote for most major decisions regarding the organization. I am on the conference committee. We are creating the conference for next year, which is in its preliminary stages.
Jacobsen: What do you consider the core principle of the CSSDP?
Cristiano: The promotion of sensible drug policy is the core principle here. We want to promote sensible drug policy in communities across Canada. We want to raise awareness. We want to equip people with the resources necessary as activists to speak out against irrational drug policies in Canada.
We want to mobilize and enact change. Of course by sensible drug policy we mean policy that is not harmful. By harmful, we refer to prohibition where drugs are forced into an illegal market with unregulated quality. Many problems come with prohibition, which regulation and decriminalization would solve or minimize.
Jacobsen: Where do you hope the CSSDP goes into the future?
Cristiano: I hope we continue to expand our network. We have a strong presence in Ontario and Quebec. I would love for CSSDP to move into remote communities, even in Southern Ontario or into other provinces as well.
Remote communities are important because, despite drug problems existing there, they lack resources for minimizing the potential for drug-related harm, e.g. addiction counselling, harm reduction resources, etc. Therefore, their experience with drug policy is unique and important. They are included in discussions about improving drug policies.
If we have a strong presence across Canada – a big national network, we can work together towards the improvement of drug policy. With the Liberal proposal for legalization, I hope CSSDP will be involved in bringing the youth voice to the decision-making processes taking place.
Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Nick.
Member-at-largeScott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/