Vancouver police raid Downtown Eastside’s Cannabis Substitution Project

The Cannabis Substitution Project provides edibles as a harm reduction measure

Police seized cannabis products from the harm-reduction initiative last weekend.


Cannabis activist Neil Magnuson says Vancouver police have raided a harm-reduction initiative, the Cannabis Substitution Project, in the Downtown Eastside.

Magnuson told CannCentral that the incident happened last Saturday (November 14). The activist said that police officers seized most of the products offered by the project.

Magnuson started the project to provide free cannabis products as a safe alternative to hard drugs, like opioids.

In addition, he related that the initiative has been doing well for over three-and-a-half years.

Magnuson later formed the Serious Hope Society (SHP), a nonprofit to house the Cannabis Substitution Project.

Also, the cannabis activist recalled that council passed a motion in June 2019, which supported low-barrier access to cannabis.

Following this move, Magnuson and his group opened a storefront at 157 East Cordova in the city’s Downtown Eastside in June 2020.

In late October this year, the nonprofit SHP got evicted by its landlord for operating a cannabis storefront without a license.

Magnuson said a judge refused to give SHP an extension until it can get an exemption for its cannabis activity from the federal government.

Cannabis initiative at risk

According to Magnuson, over 250 “vulnerable people” rely on high dose edibles provided by every four days.

Because it cannot stop its work, the group got an old recreational vehicle to continue its services in front of the vacated store.

The group had been operating from the vehicle for the last two weeks. Then Vancouver police officers showed up.

Also during the raid, Magnuson related, officers refused to look at letters of support for his organization.

These include letters from Vancouver city councillors Rebecca Bligh and Jean Swanson.

Moreover, Magnuson related that police refused to “listen to us trying to explain the good we are doing, the support we have or that hundreds of vulnerable people will now be put at great risk”.

“This is horrifying to our group,” he said.

Magnuson described the situation as an “emergency”.

He also stated that the group continues to operate from the vehicle on East Cordova Street near Main Street.

However, Magnuson noted that the organization feels “at risk from more action by the VPD”.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo

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