Vancouver’s Cannabis Substitution Project Vows to Fight on Despite Police Order

CANNABIS CULTURE – Neil Magnuson has been evicted, raided, arrested and just generally persecuted by the Vancouver Police Department. Now the VPD have threatened to impound his vehicle.

Why? What crime has Magnuson commited?

Magnuson provides help and support to people fighting drug addictions in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown East Side (DTES)– without a license.

Magnuson is The founder of a low-barrier dispensary called the Healing Wave and an alternative addiction action group known as the Cannabis Substitution Project (CPS).

“How could we possibly stop, why on God’s green earth should we!? To satisfy greed and corruption that would deny poor suffering people needed relief and options?” Says Neil Magnuson, founder of Healing Wave dispensary and the CSP.

The Vancouver Police Department has ordered an end to CSP’s operation on the Downtown East Side, citing the unlicensed distribution of unregulated cannabis.

“Legislation states that a seller must be licensed by the provincial government and that product for sale must be sourced through the Provincial government to ensure the safety of the product, and ultimately, the consumer. The unlicensed sale of cannabis is illegal,” VPD’s Constable Tania Visintin stated.

Magnuson has been forthright with Councillor Rebecca Bligh and local officials. Magnuson’s attorney submitted documents to go through the proper licensing channels. He also applied for emergency authorization so that his organizations can keep operating while he waits for official approval.

In a letter of support to City Council, City staff, and partners in the provincial and federal government published on Mugglehead, Bligh stated, “Both the Serious Hope Society [the umbrella for Magnuson’s cannabis substitution and low barrier access programs]and the High Hopes Society [another organization providing access to cannabis as a solution to opioid use]are addressing the opioid emergency in our most vulnerable communities by providing cannabis as a substitute to dangerous illicit opioids.”

She went on to implore the provincial and federal governments to provide exemptions to allow the organizations to continue operating, to no avail.

In a neighborhood notorious for open problematic drug use and increasingly needle-littered streets, Magnuson has created a community of hope and healing that is hanging tightly to the last threads of the rug underneath it; and the Vancouver Police Department has a stronghold on the other side.

The Healing Wave and CSP storefront on Cordova Street (pictured in feature image) had become a place where people struggling could feel comfortable and welcome. The spacious indoor location and relaxed atmosphere eliminated the grueling lineups that many endure in order to get harm-reducing cannabis.

Instead, cheerful volunteers welcomed clients with cannabis infused food to munch on while they chose their edibles for the week.

In October, the owner of Healing Wave’s storefront was forced to evict the CSP. Determined to not let the people he serves down, Magnuson immediately procured an RV, which he parked on the sidewalk in front of his original location.

The Cannabis Substitutions Post-eviction home. Police have already raided the van, and have threatened to impound the vehicle.

In the last couple of weeks, the VPD raided his van, threatening impound, additional seizure of products, and even arrest if he continues.

British Columbia had an average of five overdose deaths per day last month. The DTES is the epicenter of this crisis. The situation will only get worse as winter sets in on a region ravaged by homelessness and COVID, in addition to its dire opioid problem.

Between the Healing Wave and the Cannabis Substitution Program, Magnuson serves over two thousand clients. People who are turning their lives around, doing their best to avoid potentially fatal withdrawal while they get off of opiates and other harmful drugs.

If he shuts down, then these people will be stuck without support or access they are comfortable with seeking out. Against all odds, Magnuson said, “We will continue the CSP and get a new storefront one way or another, ASAP.”

He noted the hardship moving locations will put on his clients. “Many of the CSP clients don’t have contact info and rely on us being there for their free 420ml every 4 days.”

Constable Visintin said to combat the potential uptick in opiate use and deaths as a result of Healing Wave and the CSP being shut down, the Vancouver Police Department “will continue to work with our partners to ensure drug users get the help and support they need.”

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