Article by Manisha Krishnan, Vice News
As Canada works to limit social interactions and flatten the curve of coronavirus spread, many businesses have shut their doors.
But, in most provinces (and many U.S. states), liquor and cannabis stores remain open. In Ontario, they’ve been deemed “essential services,” leaving some questioning why intoxicants are something that society can’t do without.
In a now deleted tweet, Sarbjit Kaur, president of Kaur Communications and former Ontario Liberal staffer, said categorizing the LCBO as an essential service is “pathetic.”
She later tweeted, “This is basically about keeping a major revenue stream open and not pissing off the buck a beer bunch and wine moms. There are ways to accommodate health concerns of a few while protecting general public safety.”
VICE interviewed three experts who said shutting down liquor stores would create another public health crisis because it would send people addicted to alcohol into withdrawal, further taxing healthcare resources. One doctor said there would also be social consequences to cutting off alcohol access for people who aren’t necessarily dependent on booze, but use it to relax or cope with stress.
Approximately 1 percent of Canadians have severe alcohol disorder. According to Statistics Canada, 19 percent of Canadians 12 and older (5.8 million people) qualified as heavy drinkers in 2016. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include tremors, fevers, seizures, anxiety, and in some cases cardiac collapse.
“Ultimately, they can die,” said Michelle Jordan, executive director of Shelter House Thunder Bay, which provides temporary housing and resources to homeless people and people with substance use issues.
She said stopping booze sales would put additional strains on hospitals, but also increase crime if people become desperate for alcohol. Jordan said an LCBO shutdown would likely be most harmful for “functioning alcoholics.”
In severe cases, including those at Shelter House, Jordan said people will drink non-beverage alcohol such as hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol. She has already seen people going through withdrawal due to the scarcity of hand sanitizer in the coronavirus pandemic.