Article by Sam Riches, Growth Op
Every Monday, Chris Backer and a group of Halifax volunteers can be found in front of the former St. Patrick’s-Alexandra School on Maitland St., handing out free weed.
The packages contain an assortment of cannabis products — edibles, capsules, joint rolling kits and more. Backer told CBC that the group, the East Coast Cannabis Substitution Program, distributes more than 200 packages every week.
“It’s breaking the cycle of addiction,” he said. “Cannabis has been documented to be very successful and is an adjunct to try to help beat addiction.”
The group draws inspiration from the Cannabis Substitution Project in B.C., which has been distributing free cannabis packages for more than three years. Like Backer’s group, the organization relies on donations from local businesses and volunteers. “A lot of us have come off of our own addiction because of cannabis,” Backer said. “So it’s one of those things that if you know it works, how can you not help people with it?”
A study set in Vancouver and published earlier this year in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific and medical journal, found that for some street youth, cannabis is a “reverse gateway drug.”
The study was conducted from 2017 to 2019 and focused on 56 “street-involved youth” in Vancouver. Young people “may use cannabis to reduce the harms caused by other forms of substance use and in order to transition away from more harmful forms of substance use,” it found.