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To deal with the carnage addictions to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and gambling wreak on a small portion of BC residents, government slaps a mini band-aid on the problem, instead of the biggest size needed for a gaping wound

ADVANCE NOTICE ... this is a long, but important post.  I hope you will take the time to read it in its entirety.

I admit to be stymied, or better yet obstructed, from getting information that I believe is pertinent for all British Columbians to know – BEFORE the legal sale of cannabis begins in October.  It’s information I have requested both from the Ministry of Health … and from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.  And what is it that I’ve been trying to find out?  Pretty simple really.

“The various health, safety, education and enforcement implications of legalized cannabis fall almost entirely to the provincial level of government.  What is government doing to help cover these provincial costs … and also ensure fairness, recognizing the social responsibility retailers must share.” 

Additionally, I have asked, “What new funding to health initiatives such as recovery, additional beds for rehab, direct street services to addicts, etc. will there be? 

In other words, what new targeted revenue will be put in place to cover the social costs of drug and alcohol addictions

Speaking on August 29th, Jane Thornthwaite, BC Liberal critic for Mental Health and Addictions went on record saying:

We also have yet to see a strategy from this government that provides meaningful treatment and recovery for adults. Last month, the BC Centre on Substance Use released a comprehensive report setting a pathway to expanding recovery services in the province. Since then, this government has done nothing.”

She went on to state, “As statistics show from last month, this crisis is only getting worse. We need immediate action to help addicts get well, such as the Safe Care Act I proposed last spring. The NDP refused to even discuss the bill, which has wide support from the addictions recovery community.”

And what is the Safe Care Act?  It would have allowed for the apprehension of vulnerable children and youth, and allowed for safe placement in a service that would have responded to their trauma, as well as their high risk of self-harm.

An admirable idea, however it did nothing to deal with issues facing the adult population of our province …

It did not address the chronic under-funding of agencies, workers, counselors, and the like attempting to help those seeking recovery …

Nor did it speak to the need for recovery beds, and facilities, where those ready to turn their lives around could find the help needed

Despite the fact it was Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government that contributed a large portion of the funding needed to set up the BC Centre on Substance Use – an organization mandated to develop recovery approaches to substance use and addiction – Thornwaite does not address those real needs I just mentioned.

And just like the BC Liberal predecessors, the current BC NDP government contributes little to recovery services for those negatively impacted.  This while happily raking in millions through sin-taxes.

To deal with the carnage addictions to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and gambling wreak on a small portion of BC residents, government slaps a mini band-aid on the problem, instead of the biggest size needed for a gaping wound

The essence of the July report, Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in British Columbia, clearly states that over 80% of those looking to enter recovery, experience challenges. 

Those challenges can, among others, difficulty accessing services, not knowing where to go for help, a lack of recovery beds being available, facing long delays to access treatment facilities, a lack of professionals for mental health and emotional problems, and a lack of programs and supports in the community once completing a recovery program.

These are huge challenges to someone in the midst of addiction … and they are nearly insurmountable to the over eight in ten individuals ready to begin their journey to recovery! 

And then there’s the need for education to increase prospects for employment … safe and affordable housing … and help in looking at employment goals.

In addition to taxes on legalized cannabis which will begin in October, MP Cathy McLeod informed me that, "... federally there is an excise tax being imposed, 70% of which goes to the province for education etc.” 

I asked Cathy if there was a specific provincial ministry to which the excise tax would be directed too, or if it would simply go in to General revenue?  McLeod’s response was that, “… the province will decide what the 70% of the excise tax will go to.

BC Conservatives do not have a fixed policy in place on this issue, however interim leader Scott Anderson stated, “The current strategy of harm reduction as an end in itself -- with half-hearted attempts to supply "treatment" for addicted people who both want it, and are able to wait from 48 hours to two weeks to get help -- is simply not working.

There is significant private recovery-based treatment infrastructure operating in BC, but it is being underutilized.”

And the from Liberal critic Jane Thornwaite?
We need immediate action to help addicts get well … I call on the NDP to take meaningful action and table my bill for debate on the first day that the Legislature resumes.”

There was nothing about dedicated funding, from taxes imposed on addictive substances, being made available for services.  That, at least to me, IS the immediate action NEEDED.

The BC Centre for Substance Use clearly states in their July report that:

-      individuals in recovery report higher rates of healthy lifestyle practices, compared to compared to being in the addiction cycle

-      they had fewer untreated mental health issues during recovery

-      and they also needed to make less use of emergency departments. 

Is that not a goal we should encourage, by providing what is necessary to see that come about?

The authors of the report also pointed to the need for provincial health and social service systems to leverage the collective strength, experience and expertise of all, to create a recovery-oriented system of care.  I believe this not only related to those who would provide the various services -- but also to those who had gone through recovery.  

Is that not a goal we should encourage, by providing what is necessary to see that come about?

The report spoke of, and I'm quoting here, "... creating a coordinated and effective continuum of addiction care".

Should there be a dedicated amount from taxes and fees (in particular from Alcohol, Cannabis, Tobacco, and gambling / lottery sales) to cover the services clearly articulated in the Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in BC report? 

Is that not a goal we should encourage, by providing what is necessary to see that come about?

BC Conservatives appear to think so.  Asked about it, Anderson stated funding should “… be drawn from so-called "sin taxes" derived from the sales of tobacco, gambling, and alcohol, and made available to private organizations through grants”.

He continued, “… there is significant private recovery-based treatment infrastructure operating in BC, but it is being underutilized, if it is used at all by the province”.

Doctors working within the Health Authorities are forced to quietly send patients able to pay to private clinics, while patients unable to pay are turned away to fend for themselves.”

I asked both the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, about everything you have just read. 

Now, let me make you aware of the ONLY response I received, which was from BC’s Ministry of Health. 

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is responsible for the implementation of cannabis legalization here in B.C., and I have passed on your query to them.” ~~ Laura Heinze, Media Contact, speaking for the Honourable Adrian Dix, Minister of the Ministry of Health.

You read that right … the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is responsible.  And so, I ask, what kind of clowns doing we have running government?  And in asking that, I know that answer was a dodge.

Let me conclude …

Secure funding mechanisms for recovery and treatment facilities will improve access, which in turn will better support individuals pursuing a life in recovery in your community, my community, and the communities of those seeking the first steps to recovery.

In Kamloops, I’m Alan Forseth, and now I am very much interested in hearing what your thoughts are on this important topic.  Please take a moment to write them down in the Comments Section directly below this blog post.


  1. The core problem is that drugs are illegal. If they were made legal and sales controlled thru government outlets we would get rid of an enormous amount of theft, drug cartels, murders etc and reduce the size of police forces trying to push the problem away with a string. Some of the money saved would be used for the harm reduction and care facilities referred to in this article.

  2. Bob Reid is correct. Prohibition makes drugs more dangerous and more deadly. We need to legalize raw opium and opium tea as a first step. We need a safe drug supply. If the alcohol supply was poisoned and killing people, would we put more money into alcoholism treatment, or would we get the poison out of the booze supply? Drug users need access to safe clean drugs.


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