Dreaming an End to the Drug War

Gillian Maxwell, Chair, Keeping the Door Open: My dream for Vancouver is a place where each person is respected for their individuality, diversity, strengths, weaknesses, frailties and human beingness.
We are proud of our compassion and generosity towards each other. Love is an abundant choice.
Businesses moved their base here as they recognized ethical standards that match their own. Vancouver has become a hub for the new intellectual consciousness raised by the crisis of climate change, and is the home of the renaissance of the 21st century.
We choose politicians to represent us who have humility; intelligence - emotional, social and spiritual; wisdom and pragmatism.
As a result of demanding this kind of leadership, Vancouver has been able to effectively manage issues that had previously been impossible.
The biggest difference is in the community of the Downtown Eastside.
Rarely do people live on the street. There is housing available for the varying needs of the people who live there. The single-room occupancy hotels are gone and supported accommodation is available for people with mental health and other disabilities in the community and in other parts of the city as well. Neighbourhoods are proud to welcome facilities that nurture those who were previously feared and scorned.
The healthcare system provides excellent integrated services to those who are mentally ill, have addiction problems, personality disorders, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. There is no stigma attached to these health conditions and general practitioner's and emergency doctors alike are amazed at the efficiency and cost savings this change has facilitated.
Investment of assistance for young children and their families is another surprise; issues that could have festered into real problems later on are identified and specific support is provided. Generations will grow up having been given the opportunity to feel loved and safe and secure in who they are and empowered to contribute to their society.
All of these initiatives have resulted in way less problematic use of psycho-active substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines etc. Education in school and home that tells the truth about all drugs and their effects have resulted in people of all ages realizing that drug use can sometimes be beneficial, often harmless, but they are also very aware of the risks they face in choosing to consume.
Society has come to understand that substances are not the problem, and over use is considered a sign the individual is feeling disconnected from themselves and their community. Now we have systems in place to assist their re-integration.
The most dramatic change of all is in the production and distribution of all drugs. Organized crime is no longer able to corrupt our society with the huge profits they made when drugs were illegal. Now all substances that were previously illegal come from recognized and registered producers with high standards of quality control. All drugs that are produced are clearly labelled with the content and expected effect it will have.
The type of distribution is dependent on the effect of each substance. Cannabis is readily available with restrictions on age and amount and the different strains are easy to discern; more potent substances have more restrictions and educational components. Nothing is branded or advertised - a lesson learned the hard way by the tobacco and alcohol industries. This system does not totally rule out illegal markets but it has significantly changed who is in control. It is more successful than anticipated because the level of education about all substances has led to less risky behaviour enabling people to make informed choices rather than ignorant guesses.
As a result of the controls being removed, society has started to move from the stagnation of blind acceptance to asking what is possible.
All levels of society have come to realize we all have a responsibility for each other and that we co-exist interdependently. People understand the highest esteem is given to those who contribute both individually and collectively.
How did we get to this level of being with each other? We sat down and talked - dialogue and understanding "the other" is the gateway to freedom from fear. As John Lennon says, you may say I am a dreamer, but I know I am not the only one...