It was a mixed bag at the CHAMPS Expo this weekend in Toronto. Recreational users, medical users, lawyers, researchers, activists, glass blowing experts, and retailers were all there from all over Canada to see what was happening. This was the first year the CHAMPS Expo was in Toronto – a tradeshow organization from the US who specializes in “counterculture” shows. It was a similar layout to the Treating Yourself Expo that has run on the same weekend for the previous five years. CSSDP, for the first time, had our very own booth to talk to people about the harms of prohibition and give out information about how they could get involved. I had three goals in mind for the weekend: 1) get our name out there and make sure our booth looked good, 2) present a paper for the NORML conference on my own research, and 3) get a selfie with Jodie Emery.
While 420 was celebrated across Canada, there were reverberations across the world. In Fort McMurray, the celebrations came a little bit late. The stigma of marijuana due to a corporate culture of drug testing means that users must remain in the closet and go to great lengths to conceal their use. Yet it took just one oil worker to fail his drug test and take to the streets! After a picture of this one man protest went viral on the internet on a local Facebook community group “Fort McMurray Everything Goes,” the protest grew. Fort McMurray is famous around the world for being the heart of the tar sands, otherwise known as the oil sands. Whether or not you agree with the extraction of fossil fuels, the notion of denying someone employment based on their drug of choice is inherently wrong. Harry Slade writes exclusively for CSSDP on his recent experience of being denied employment based on his past marijuana use, and the support he received in his protest for drug policy reform.
Today is the first ever International Harm Reduction Day, and in celebration I’m taking to the blog to talk about what harm reduction means to me. In my previous work as a harm reduction program manager, I often fielded (well-intentioned) questions about whether or not I found the work scary. I took the time to sit with people, hear their concerns, show them what an injection kit (for intravenous drug use) or pipe kit (for inhalation drug use) looks like, and have a conversation. But one of the most helpful ways I found to address the stigma and fear around harm reduction, be it at a dinner party, on a hike, or in a formal training scenario, was to remind people that they were already harm reduction practitioners.
Now that the cloud of smoke has cleared from Queen’s Park in Toronto, I’d like to report on my impressions of this year’s Global Marijuana March (GMM). The most noticeable difference this year from years past was the lack of the Freedom Festival; the GMM in Toronto used to be a cultural hub for people who use pot and supporters of sensible drug policy reform but also a reclamation of public space, a music festival and a movement which showed that drug policy is inter-sectional and affects everyone in our society. It was a safe space for various communities to gather to show their support for reformed policy but also (and just as importantly) it was a cultural melting pot (pun not intended) of people just being people. This is an important point as it goes to show that drug policy reform, whether in the form of decriminalization or legalization, is not going to look like the apocalyptic vision many scare tactics have led us to believe, but more like just any other day (maybe with a few more people having fun in the outdoors and of course with less unjust arrests and less taxpayer’s money being spent on enforcing non-violent “crime”).
At High Noon on Saturday, May 3, 2014, over 25,000 people gathered in downtown Toronto for the 16th annual Global Marijuana March (GMM). The peaceful gathering marched in protest of recent changes to Health Canada’s Medical Marijuana program and the Federal government’s new mandatory minimums for marijuana possession.
Last year’s GMM drew an impressive 25,000 medical and recreational supporters and enthusiasts, and this year was no different. Since last year many victories have been won for sensible drug policy in the United States and elsewhere. It’s time for Canada to catch up. Fittingly, the slogan of this year’s march was “It’s Time!”