On Tuesday, May 10th, 2022, The Cannabis Substitution Program (CSP) was raided by Vancouver police, and charges have been laid. An unexpected blow from the province, many are concerned about this heavy-handed approach. Here are the details about this developing situation.
What is the Cannabis Substitution Program?
Set up on the downtown eastside, the Cannabis Substitution Program supports anyone looking to get off other drugs. While they do distribute cannabis, they are not a dispensary and won’t just sell their buds to anyone. Their cannabis and products provide an alternative to much harder drugs, ease pain and reduce withdrawal symptoms. They provide a drug replacement that is non-fatal, effective, and backed up with evidence. During an opiate epidemic, this work could not be more important.
A package of cannabis flower, capsules, and edibles offered free by the CSP – Photo courtesy of Neil Magnuson’s Facebook page
In the beginning, the Cannabis substitution program primarily focused on helping addicts. As time went on, word of the organization spread to the medical cannabis community. Patients in need of support began using them as a resource for both medicine and guidance. Considering their experience in helping heroin users, they can provide a wealth of knowledge when it comes to other narcotics.
Justice vs. The Law
This organization does not consist of a bunch of gangsters getting rich dealing drugs; they sell low-cost cannabis from the back of an RV and whenever possible, they give it away. By working with growers in the legacy market, the CSP is able to circumvent a lot of legal overhead. Because of this, their bud and edibles are handed out free or if they are sold, the price is cheap. As one could imagine, this is completely illegal. But, for an addict suffering from withdrawal symptoms or medical patient without any access, the organization is a lifeline.
George Middleton holding an extremely large bud in the CSP RV – Photo courtesy of The Vancouver Cannabis Substitution Program Facebook Page
All cannabis businesses across the province are required to comply with the Cannabis Act. This includes having a license. Medical cannabis organizations are under Federal jurisdiction, thus, they don’t have to follow the same rules. However, these regulations are a giant mess, making legal integration nearly impossible. The only course of action is to adjust your operations to comply or apply for an exemption; this is what the CSP has done.
Exemption from The Cannabis Act
According to CSP founder Neil Magnuson, the Cannabis Substitution Program submitted an application to the Crown. They have formally asked for an exemption from the Cannabis Act. Their argument is that the current regulations provide too many barriers, making low-cost cannabis inaccessible. Currently, the application is still processing.
Raided and Charges
On Tuesday, May 10th, 2022, several police officers came to shut the program down and seize the CSP RV. Program founder Neil Magnuson and two other staff members have been charged with trafficking but nothing has been approved by the Crown. All CSP staff have been released on their own reconnaissance.
Vancouver PD surrounding the CSP RV – Photo courtesy of Neil Magnuson’s Facebook page
When the CSP is about to open, you can usually tell by the lineup outside. This isn’t due to popularity, it’s because of necessity. The Cannabis Substitution Project provides an invaluable service to our community, one that doesn’t fit into our current laws. Thankfully, they don’t really care about that. On May 10th, the Vancouver police shut down the CSP but the next day, they re-opened. When asked about the raid and re-open, Neil Magnuson had this to say: “People need to have high dose edibles or they’re going to die. We’re not walking away from them.”