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The history of the drug market on Hastings

August 13th, 2008 · 5 Comments

There’s a fascinating historical account by local historian Lani Russwurm on drugs and the Downtown Eastside at the Tyee today. Russworm has dug up some great old material from past decades, including the supposedly golden pre-drug era of the 40s,, 50s, and 60s, about people wringing their hands over the drug problem in Vancouver and “skid row” in particular.

It’s always an educational experience to look back at historical media coverage of Vancouver and discover how many of the issues we think are so contemporary and such an immediate crisis have been around for a good century at least.

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  • Greg Watson

    Thanks for that. Very interesting.

  • Colleen

    Cocaine and Whiskey sales up some 30% here in British Columbia and especially Vancouver. I know Falcon sits on the Whiskey Board and have tried to make the booze available to just about anyone including are youth who manage to find easy access. All thanks to the Liberals and there push for more Liquor stores and reduced money for recovery. The Liberals give money to the strangers places like this alcohol rehab place which took in residents yet it had no running water and was so decapitated it should be condemned. You hear stories how the cops get a small time dealer and take all his money and drugs and then book him for being drunk or something or just let him go. You hear that story to much to know something very, very wrong is going down in this town.

  • AAM

    Could someone explain the current logic

    When Insite is mentioned as a place where people are allowed to inject many things into thier bodies
    Then why is it against the law to have a cigareette ? one mans drug is another mans poison ?

    for the record I am a supporter of Insight

  • “It’s always an educational experience to look back at historical media coverage of Vancouver and discover how many of the issues we think are so contemporary and such an immediate crisis have been around for a good century at least.”

    If you talk to recovered addicts who’ve been around town long enough they’ll tell you the hard drug using community was quite small in decades past (up to the late 1970s) and that prohibitionists demonized them to create an excuse for governments to justify heavier investment in law enforcement. Bruce Alexander’s first book on Canada’s war on drugs informs well on this.

    The documentary film Cocaine Cowboys outlines how Miami was transformed from a relatively quiet seaside retirement/tourism-based community into the glitzy, fast-rolling urban resort destination it became in the 1980s via cocaine profits introduced by organized crime. Not long after, an ex-LAPD drug squad cop survives an assassination attempt after refusing a request from federal agents to sell crack cocaine to residents of South-Central LA, and a US Forestry Service transport aircraft was seized by state police at the Mexico City airport with a cargo of cocaine worth a street value of more than a billion dollars.

    There has never been a foreign terrorist attack on Canadian soil, yet we continue to fight a war in a nation that saw its opium export rise from 450 tonnes in 2000 to 8400 tonnes in 2007, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.

    The U.S. Secret Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Drug Enforcement Administration; and Diplomatic Security Service–Regional Security Office of the U.S. Department of State, all have offices in Vancouver, Canada, according to the Consulate General website.

    The massive open drug market and the devastation it has caused families in Vancouver cannot be so flippantly compared with the narcotics subculture of the days before organized crime cartels and then legitimate society, through the biggest players in its financial services sector, began viewing illegal drugs as an acceptable form of wealth generation.

  • CWYL

    I totally beleive it Blackbird, and it all began in the states when just after prohibition they went after dope, which at the time would barely get you stone and was used more for medicinal purposes (which the medical establishment is now only recently doing double-blind tests on).
    The reason for this was because the government bent to Morman will (I think it was them anyway, in Utah?) and William Randolph (newspaper and lumber baron) who didn’t like the idea of the mexicans having a product to rival his (hemp). The Spanish brought marijunana to the america’s in the 16th century though it’s history goes back over 4000 years to the chinese.
    In the 1930’s the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics outright lied to the US Senate saying that the head of the medical establishment backed their findings 100 percent, it did not.
    This was all a successful attemt to make a small and relatively insignificant agency into a powerhouse, thus creating the first US drug czar.
    And though I don’t condone pot smoking these days (it’s way to strong and potentially laced with other drugs), hemp is finally starting to make a comeback.
    As for dope being a gateway drug, it wasn’t for me and I found it quite easy to stop.