FINALLY.

From the Toronto Star:

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has admitted that he used crack cocaine while in office.

“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Ford told reporters outside his office. “But no, do I, am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago. I answered your question. You ask the question properly, I’ll answer it. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. All I can do now is apologize and move on.”

Ford said he did not know the exact circumstances of his crack use.

“I don’t even remember,” he said. “Some of the stuff that you guys have seen me, the state I’ve been in? It’s a problem.”

Ford’s bombshell concession may end his political career. He said in May that he does not smoke crack — using the present tense — but steadfastly refused to answer when asked repeatedly if he had ever smoked crack or done so while in office.

“I wasn’t lying. You didn’t ask the correct questions,” he said. “No, I’m not an addict and no I do not do drugs. I made mistakes in the past and all I can do is apologize but it is what it is. And I can’t change the past and I can apologize to my family, my friends, my colleagues and the people of this great city.”

More from GawkerNow, CBC, the Canadian Press, the Globe and MailBBC and the Associated Press via the New York Times.

Phew!

I Think Rob Ford Might Be Toast

You remember the Rob Ford Crackstarter, Gawker’s effort to raise $200,000 to buy a video of (allegedly) the Toronto mayor smoking crack? Yeah. It’s going to work. I’ve checked in on it a few times in the last day. As of right now, this second, it’s [checks] $140,832. Last night it was $118-something thousand.

I think it’s time to ask if Ford will make it to the weekend without resigning? If that video shows what two reporters and Gawker’s editor say it does, I can’t see a way out of this for Ford.

On the bright side, even people who’ve despised him are probably starting to feel bad for the guy. I know I do.

UPDATE: In the time it took to write this post (about five minutes), the crackster has increased to $141,003.

UPDATE-2:22 p.m.: $141,943

UPDATE-2:37 p.m.: $143,158

UPDATE-3:23 p.m.: $144,690

UPDATE-4:01 p.m.: holy shit, $155,240. Also, Ford has fired his chief of staff. Bad week for Conservative politicians’ chiefs of staff in this country today.

UPDATE-7:55 p.m.: $159,382. Earlier today someone donated $10,000. Alas, Gawker’s contact can’t contact the guy with the phone, so this my all be for naught. More here.

Ford Watch

Toronto’s Catholic school board has banned Toronto mayor and alleged crack-smoker Rob Ford from coaching football. Meanwhile, his brother, Doug Ford, who also sits on Toronto’s city council, says Ford is under no obligation to speak to media: “If the mayor stopped and held a press conference every time the media made up a story about him, we would never have accomplished what we have,” he said. You can read more on CBC Toronto. Oh, and Toronto police say that if “any evidence of a criminal act arises”, they’ll “deal with that”.

They’re Calling It The “Rob Ford Crackstarter”

This crazy thing keeps getting crazier. From Gawker:

As you may have heard, Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, smokes crack cocaine. We’ve seen a video of him smoking crack cocaine, and the people who have the video would like to sell it. Through the miracle of crowdfunding, you can help. Please consider donating to the Rob Ford Crackstarter.

How Much Do We Need? $200,000. That’s what the owners of the video want. That sounds like a lot of money. The good people at Indiegogo believe that, with the appropriate amount ofvirality, that goal is achievable.

Christ, That’s a Lot of Money. Yes, it is. But they’ve got the video! And it’s not all about greed, though of course most of it is. The owners of this video fear for their safety, and want enough money to pay for a chance to get out of Toronto and set up in a new town. Their fear is not entirely unwarranted. Rob Ford is a powerful if buffoonish man, and he was wrapped up in a drug scene that purportedly involved many other prominent Toronto figures.

What Will We Get? A crystal clear, well-lit video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine, published on Gawker for the world to see. We will also be throwing in some perks, for specific donation amounts. But the main thing is the video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine.

This is going to end with Ford fighting biplanes at the top of the CN tower, isn’t it? Oh Gawker. Oh Internet. Oh Rob Ford.

Drugs ‘R’ Us

“Health Canada has swiftly approved six generic copies of the widely abused painkiller OxyContin, despite urgings from some of the country’s leading pain doctors and researchers to delay approval in the name of ‘patient and public safety’.”

That’s the lead paragraph in a story today in the Ottawa Citizen about the rush by generic drug companies to begin producing the semi-synthetic opioid once the original manufacturer Purdue Pharma’s patent expired. Because it’s an opioid (ie.  it shares family ties with heroin), OxyContin has proven to be extremely addictive. So the more of it that’s around, and the cheaper it is to acquire, well… I probably don’t have to draw you a picture.

Now for today’s fun fact: It’s my understanding that while Saskatchewan’s Workers’ Compensation Board won’t pay clients’ costs to purchase medical marijuana for pain relief and other health benefits, they will pay for drugs like OxyContin with a proven track record of addiction. And if you do become addicted, they’ll pay for your rehab. 

Love That War On Drugs

Meanwhile, in Mexico:

Police in Mexico City found two severed human heads on a street near a major military base Monday, a grisly tactic of warring drug gangs that has long affected other parts of the country while largely sparing the capital. Decapitations are frequently carried out by gangs in drug-violence-plagued cities such as the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco and in northern Mexico, often to intimidate or threaten rivals. But it was the first multiple decapitation in the capital since January 2008, when two heads were found near the city’s international airport.

Story here. Drug prohibition: making the world a better place one severed head at a time.

Tories “Dissappointed” Courts Won’t Let Them Kill Vancouver Drug Addicts

I’m paraphrasing. From The Globe And Mail:

The Health Minister told the House of Commons on Friday that her government would be taking a look at the decision. “Although we are disappointed with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision today, we will comply,” Leona Aglukkaq said during Question Period. The government, she said, believes that the system should be focussed on preventing people from becoming drug addicts and has made significant investments to strengthen existing treatment efforts through its treatment action plan. “We will be reviewing the court decision,” the minister said.

Mmm-hmm. Also from that story:

Libby Davies, the New Democrat MP whose riding includes the Downtown Eastside where Insite is located, was delighted with the court ruling. “Since it opened in 2003 in my riding, fatal overdoses have dropped by a third. More people get treatment as Insite is there to connect people with the services they need. Today the people who use this service have had their voices heard,” Ms. Davies told the House.

That’s a little more reasonable. Read the full thing here.

British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, and SCIENCE all agree that Insite saves lives, and they want to keep it running. The Conservative feds, who’ve tried to kill Insite for years, need leave their cottages in make-believe land and learn about reality — then back off.

But whatever, they won’t. They’re the party of la la la, everything’s okay if you do it our way. Besides, the Cons — a.k.a. the Crazy Grampa Party — can  still swing their Nancy Reagan-approved war-on-drugs dicks at pot smokers through their stupid crime omnibus bill.

Meanwhile, drug prohibition policies have a body count in, to make up a plausible number, the tens of millions. In Canada and worldwide, drug prohibition is a bigger failure than booze prohibition — it breeds gangsters and killers like mice in abandoned barns.

Unless we want to keep reading headlines abou narco beheadings and disembowlments, we need to re-think everything we’re doing about drugs. Insite is a good start.

If You Vote Conservative, You Must Wish Harm on the Marginalized & Vulnerable

Disclaimer: I worked for two years at Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection facility and currently work at Onsite, the detox & transitional housing program attached to Insite. Except where explicitly stated, the following opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my employer the PHS Community Services Society, nor those of Vancouver Coastal Health, which co-manages both Insite and Onsite.

On May 12, the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to hear an appeal from the Attorney General on the 2008 decision by the Supreme Court of BC which struck down sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as unconstitutional in that they prevented Canadian citizens addicted to illegal drugs from accessing health care services, specifically those offered by Vancouver’s supervised injection facility, Insite. In his decision (which you can read in its entirety as a PDF file here), Justice Ian Pitfield wrote:

“Instead of being rationally connected to a reasonable apprehension of harm, the blanket prohibition contributes to the very harm it seeks to prevent. It is inconsistent with the state’s interest in fostering individual and community health, and preventing death and disease.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has already had one appeal of Pitfield’s decision rejected by the BC Court of Appeals in January, 2010. Undaunted by the growing scientific research that supports Insite and the use of Harm Reduction methodologies as part of a comprehensive strategy for dealing with addiction, unswayed by the legal findings of the courts, and unfazed by the cost-effectiveness of harm reduction practices, the Harper Tories wage on. British medical journal The Lancet has just published a study showing that Insite contributed to a 35 per cent drop in overdose deaths in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside within two years of its 2003 opening. That’s what at stake, human lives.
In a 2008 op-ed, the Globe & Mail‘s public health reporter Andre Picard wrote:

“our federal government and our national police force, rather than embracing harm reduction as complementary to law enforcement, have developed a hatred for Insite that is irrational and unseemly, one that threatens and undermines public health policy to its core.”

Even some Christians find the Harper government’s attack on Harm Reduction distasteful. Saskatchewan Redemptorist ethicist Father Mark Miller told the Catholic Register in 2007: “

“This is a social-justice issue. It’s almost like the situation of lepers in the time of Jesus. What Jesus did was say, ‘No, you embrace them; you bring them in, you make them part of the community.’ That becomes part of the healing. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it’s going to work for the community. It also becomes part of the healing of the community, because otherwise you become elitist and moralistic.”

Liz Evans, Executive Director of PHS Community Services (which operates Insite in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health) wrote in the National Post last month:

“InSite’s purpose is to help prevent addicts from dying, either from an overdose or from a disease, before they get a chance to recover.”

To put it even more simply, dead people don’t detox. My Canada doesn’t give up on people, Stephen Harper’s evidently does. At an October, 2007 press conference our Prime Minister said:

“If you remain an addict, I don’t care how much harm you reduce,you’re going to have a short and miserable life.”

In the face of so much evidence that shows otherwise, Harper’s statement is nothing short of appalling.

Here’s our new favourite vlogger Shawn Syms on Harm Reduction last fall:

Interested In How The War On Drugs Has Totally Failed?

Seattle’s The Stranger just published the final installment of a great series on the human and economic costs of the drug war that started with an investigation into mysteriously tainted cocaine and ended with a call for the legalization of everything. The feature is a monster but if you’re at all, at all interested in this topic it’s a must read. A long excerpt:

Tobacco use was responsible for 435,000 deaths in the United States in 2000, according to a 2004 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association. The same year, all illegal drug use was responsible — directly and indirectly — for 17,000 deaths. When I started working on this series, I thought, like most moderate liberals: Yes, legalize pot, that’s obvious. But heroin and cocaine and meth and the rest — aren’t those drugs kind of dangerous?

The more hours I spent in the library, in research laboratories, in alleyways, and on couches interviewing addicts, dealers, policymakers, law enforcement officials, lawyers, doctors, and academics, the more I came to agree with Stamper — as well as former Mexican president Vicente Fox, former UK drug czar Bob Ainsworth, Spain’s former (and, to date, longest-serving) prime minister Felipe Gonzalez, and members of Mexico’s Social Democratic Party, who have been attacked by anonymous gunmen and Molotov cocktails after campaigning for legalization.

The mystery of why a cattle-deworming drug called levamisole is being cut into the world’s cocaine supply is just a footnote in the drug war’s century-long history of corruption, violence, addiction, and doom.

We will always have drug users, drug abusers, and drug producers — just like we’ll always have casual drinkers, alcoholics, and distilleries. We cannot change that. What we can change is the level of violence and cruelty associated with the drug trade by elevating it to the legal market, where business disputes are settled with the rule of law instead of with machine guns and chain saws.

The only way out is to legalize — and regulate — everything. Pot, heroin, cocaine, meth:everything.

The piece is 6,000 words and every word is worth reading — it’s a masterpiece of alt-weekly journalism. You can find it here. Click. Go. Read. It’s worth a 1/2 hour of your time.