McGill University Tribune Editorial on Cannabis Legalization and Campus Culture

The McGill Tribune (2018) reported on the fact that many university students use cannabis, especially with cannabis set to be legalized by the end of the summer. The editorial says that “schools no longer need to turn a blind eye.”

McGill’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will be having workshops on the use of medical cannabis in May with a new diploma for cannabis production prepared in 2019 sometime.

As the youth continue to support responsible cannabis use and the federal government moves forward with the legalization process of it, the editorial declares that “these measures open a much-needed explicit, institutional-level conversation about recreational weed use.”

McGill University will have a ban on smoking on campus, e.g. tobacco, cannabis, and so on. Cannabis for the upcoming cohorts of students will be legal for them. The editorial team state the opportunity exists here for an honest discussion about harm reduction, stigma reduction, and the promotion and maintenance of a cannabis culture.

They assert cannabis use is as common as alcohol use on campus, but the safety measures and culture around cannabis have not developed as thoroughly as the ones for alcohol on campus.

Most drugs on campus are illegal. However, cannabis, as with alcohol, will be legal soon enough, which appears to the editorial team to necessitate the discussion, the frank and public conversation, on the safe and harm reduction use of cannabis by McGill students.

That will no longer be the case for weed. Rather than looking the other way—or encouraging others to do so—McGill and its students must actively shape the norms and culture around cannabis.

Cannabis is far less harmful than alcohol. It can help with anxiety, pain, and stress reduction. However, experts do not know the variety of effects on different users, according to the editorial team.

The editorial team point to the core of “both harm and stigma-reduction” as “access to information” with tertiary education as a first time for many students to be exposed to drugs in a recreational way.

They argue, with legalization en route, the university should have the educational and information resources prepared for students, especially those who may have vulnerabilities to dependency.

The McGill Tribune editorial team argue for the “evidence-based, judgment-free approach” to the provision of information and educational resources and the use of legal, recreational drugs by McGill University students.

“Frosh and residence programming seem like the most obvious places to start, but as not all students participate in Frosh or live in residence; broader-reaching online resources are necessary to ensure that all students are included—during first year and after,” the editorial team proposed.

Of course, they point out that the students have an individual responsibility to act in a responsible and mature manner with respect to substances to become more educated on the matters of drugs, harm reduction, and cannabis, especially with cannabis legalization coming up.

They conclude, “Students aren’t merely part of the school’s weed culture; they are its entirety—and it is up to them to create a physically and emotionally safe space around it.”


McGill Tribune Editorial Board. (2018, March 13). Toward a weed-friendly campus: Let’s set the bar high. Retrieved from

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

Naloxone is Needed

Harms Associated with Opioids and Other Psychoactive Prescription Drugs (2015) was published by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). The CMA gives two main descriptions at the outset. It lays the basis for consideration of the recent fentanyl crisis. Many citizens in British Columbia sing a silent tune akin to Carmelita of GG Allin with “Carmelita hold me tighter / I think I’m sinking down / And I’m all strung out on heroin / On the outskirts of town.”

“Canada has one of the highest per capita consumption of prescription opioids in the world,” the CMA said.  The use of these and other prescription substances are a “significant public health and patient safety issue,” especially for the individual users in the wake of the recent fentanyl crisis. Indeed, GG Allin died of an overdose. Heroin laced with fentanyl represents death-by-substance laced with it en masse in BC compared to the general quietude of the province.

With the popular culture and the most influential medical body having one thing or another to say on the subject, you might be thinking about heroine, overdose via substances laced with fentanyl (with heroin as a prominent example), and the ways to prevent overdose.

One of the best things is to have a naloxone kit. According to the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, naloxone is “a safe, highly effective chemical compound that reverses the effects of opiates such as heroin…Naloxone has been approved for use in Canada for over 40 years and is on the World Health Organization List of Essential Medicines. Naloxone has no potential for abuse.” All good things. It reverses opiate effects, remains approved in Canada (for 4 decades) and in the WHO essential medicine listing, and can not be abused.

If this is the culture, professional and public, and if this is an endorsed chemical compound for the effective prevention of overdoses, then…the…next…step…is? You might want to consider naloxone kits on campus, at events, at popular youth areas, and so on. Not to normalize heroin or opiate use, but for the mildly increased probability of overdose among youth (and others). It is about safety, conscientious, and respect for persons through preparation to save lives.

As we say, we are not here to judge, but to help. The College of Pharmacists of British Columbia made naloxone kits available without prescription within the province. You can acquire. Concerned organizations can acquire and distribute them. Same with universities motivated by concern for student health. “I am very pleased to confirm that as of March 22, 2016 Health Canada has done its part to make naloxone available without a prescription, specifically for emergency use for opioid overdose outside hospital settings,” The Honourable Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P. said, “This is a timely, sensible and effective intervention that will help save lives….With respect to the changes in British Columbia, I am happy that we share a common goal in reducing the harms associated with opioid abuse.”      

Stigmatization of Drugs and Users is a Problem

British Columbia’s more downtrodden citizens can experience more stigmatization than others. Many of the downtrodden can be drug misusers. Sometimes just to get by, akin to that famous Talib Kweli song. Furthermore, one of the greater problems with the stigmatization of drug mis-users is then using that as an excuse to do nothing to help a fellow Canadian. This extends to drug users, who may use drugs, or substances, for recreational pleasure.

Substance users without addiction, or needing them to cope with some emotional problem. People tend to use drugs because of the effects on experience. An unacknowledged aspect from the  mainstream Canadian culture is that individuals can use substance for pleasure without negative consequence because the individual, their substance, and their means of use are responsible and conscientious.

Stigmatization is a form of negative stereotype about drug use and drug misuse. It is a mark of disgrace and infamy. It is particularly pernicious in its effects on individual members of the community, and so the community at large, because as social beings we feel hurt when rejected, especially from the larger tribe: society. It is a rejection of the individuals through a generalized negative stereotype. That is, the concerns, context, type of drug and extent of drug use, individual personality, and so on, are not taken into account based on the bias and prejudice. This can leave the times when individual mis-users need help without adequate consideration.

In addition, this can make the normal, responsible, conscientious drug users can be lumped together with the mis-users to demonize substances and their users as a whole. It creates further problems in tackling the real issues and concerns of a large minority of the Canadian population. Those that enjoy recreational or therapeutic substance, and others, unfortunately, that misuse and require proper care.

We need positive drug narratives. Stories depicting regular British Columbian, even Canadian in general, citizens doing the things that responsible drug users do. They use a substance recreationally at home, or therapeutically, with friends at parties or raves, even at outdoor concerts rather than the narratives about the drug ‘abuser’ who is irresponsible with, uninformed about, and excessive in their use of drugs or substances.

We need precise, accurate information about the individuals and the substances to begin to remove the stigmatization of the recreational and therapeutic substance using community, and to accurately assess the needs of the drug and substance misusing sub-population. In a way, in the light of harm reduction principles of evidence and compassion, we, as fellow British Columbians and Canadian citizens, owe it to ourselves based on duties and others out of empathy. And why not?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

An Interview with Gareth Crawford – Communications Consultant, Karmik

*Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and concision. Interview completed on October 26, 2016.*

Gareth is a Media Account Consultant by day & DJ by night under the stage name Condens8. He holds a Double Major Bachelors Degree in Communications & Political Science. He is a former nightlife promoter and founder of the crew. He has thrown over 70 events in Vancouver Nightclubs, Lounges, and Warehouses.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In brief, how did you become involved with Karmik?

Gareth Crawford: It is an interesting story. So, I was added on Facebook because I am an event promoter. I was promoting events for a couple of years. My friend moved into town. She asked if they could come to events, provide free condoms and drug supplies.

I thought, “This is a good idea.” In the community, there are many people using substances. No one else was doing it.

Jacobsen: Karmik is based in the West Coast.

Crawford: My friend moved here. She moved from Montreal. She joined forces with others early in the operation. Three people started Karmik.

Jacobsen: It is based on aspects of the harm reduction philosophy. It is a strategy and practice through Karmik. What are some examples of this, e.g. in youth party activities?

Crawford: So, we do not condone or condemn. Evidence-based drug policy is advocated by us. If harm reduction philosophy is not going to be implemented, we will as renegades. We want people to be safe. We meet people where they are at. Mostly, they are at parties.

Many people do not know what they’re getting into sometimes. From being in the music community, I have seen drugs have positive effects, and negative effects as well. Overall, knowledge is power.

It is important to teach people. We get to talk to the younger generation and educate them. It is about knowledge and safety.

Jacobsen: How can younger generations become involved in Karmik? How can older generations contribute too?

Crawford: As the [former] communications director, I have the experience of connecting the Karmik message to younger people. For young people, early on, Inner City Beats was one of the first collaborators.

Jacobsen: What would you consider the main message to get out about drugs to the public, especially the youth, to correct a larger misconception?

Crawford: People should know what they’re getting into. They can talk to someone older. We want to be bigger brothers and sisters to them. They can talk to us about things that they wouldn’t discuss with their parents.

We tell them to learn more, give back, help people, and be safer. There are tons of things you can do. Even if you are going to use, there are things to do to prevent harms, e.g. having a friend around when you use (not using alone!), having safer supplies, and so on.

We are not there to encourage substance use. However, we are aware of the reality which is that people can and do choose to use substances. Brushing it under the rug is no longer acceptable, the reality has to be addressed.

Image Credit: Gareth Crawford/Karmik.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Youth Substance Use in the Party Scene

Youth culture comes with assumptions about it. It is part of being of the younger cohort. Society sees the young as naive at times, and so more prone to careless mistakes. This can be further exacerbated by greater knowledge about what constitutes mental health and mental illness. In fact, many of the vulnerable youth populations might have mental illness issues. Something more or less out of their control, and possibly exacerbated by substance use in excess.

In essence, youth culture comes down to the acknowledgement, not necessarily the acceptance, of substance use in society and places young people use them. Some with mental illness might feel scared to talk about it, which can influence the decision to go to their doctor, their GP, or not. If an individual does not want to go out of fear of judgment, this can leave them with a reduced quality of life and persistent untreated mental illness

Some, to cope, might turn to substances for the necessary relief from the mental illness, whether depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and so on. Indeed, some substances might alleviate symptoms for a time. However, the fundamental problem might be the excess use based on the mental illness. That is, mental illness might predispose certain individuals with drug misuse. Those that misuse, though a minor sub-population of the substance users, might have self-medicated for the unpleasantness typically associated with mental illness for a temporary sense of mental health.

That’s not the only facet of youth culture and substance use. As noted in other writing, there is the larger sector, arguably the largest portion, of the youth substance use culture devoted to the moderate, responsible, conscientious, and reasonable use of substances for pleasure – neither for coping nor misuse (sometimes called abuse). Indeed, it seems possible to make a reasonable argument that mental health, in some cases, could be facilitated by moderate, responsible, conscientious, and reasonable use of substances.

Of course, one can never use and have mental health, but, in some case, maybe even many, individuals could develop a healthy self-esteem and sense of community in youth culture with new friends, colleagues, even intimate partners in some cases. It depends, and is not black and white, but these seem like important reflections on the youth culture ongoing and rediscovered in some mildly novel form with each youth cohort. They are the future adult, and so it’s best to think about their lives and livelihood.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

An Interview with Cameron Schwartz – Research Director, Karmik

*Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and concision. Interview completed on November 21, 2016 when Schwartz was the Administrative Coordinator.*

Cameron Schwartz is the Research Director for Karmik and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Public Health. Cameron has extensive experience managing harm reduction and ‘festival health’ spaces at music festivals within and outside of Canada, and works as a shift lead at outreach events with Karmik. 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you become involved in Karmik?

Cameron Schwartz: It was a couple years ago. A friend was asked to lead one of the workshops from the volunteer training. I heard about Karmik through them, and decided to attend. I was eager to become involved with it.

Jacobsen: You are the administrative coordinator of Karmik. What tasks and responsibilities come with the position?

Schwartz: I do a lot of the back-end work. I organize and manage behind the scenes.

Jacobsen: What is the vision of Karmik?

Schwartz: As a harm reduction organization, we say, “We meet people where they are at.” We acknowledge their rights to make their own decisions, and that they will do what they think is best for them. We are there to support them to make the decisions in the safest way.

Jacobsen: What are targeted objectives of Karmik?

Schwartz: We try to help people through difficult situations, especially when doing live events. We do peer counseling work. We talk to people. We help them sort out issues. Sometimes, at music festivals or events, their friends might not be there or they might need other sources of support.

We also distribute supplies to reduce transmission of STIs. We hand out party packs with condoms, lube, and straws. Overall, we aim to educate the public as well as advocate for sensible government policies surrounding harm reduction.

Jacobsen: With the peer counseling work, what are some of the topics people want to discuss?

Schwartz: It depends on the event. If a music festival is not held in a city, there are fewer supports for mental health, e.g. professional mental health support. People might not have anyone to turn to, and many will not leave the festival to seek mental health support or for addictions.

On an informal, peer to peer basis, we help people talk through these issues. Sometimes, altered states play into this as well. It is not super emotionally involved all of the time, though. For example, they might need a ride home, and we might suggest calling friends or a cab.  

Jacobsen: There are stigmas in substance use and in mental illness. For those finding the privacy and comfort to discuss these things within the safe context, what tactics can be used to help those having a bad trip or might be predisposed to have bad ones?

Schwartz: If it is the result of a substance, it depends on the substance and its effects. Sometimes it comes down to just having a peer.

Many people will not feel comfortable approaching the RCMP or a security guard to talk about these issues for a variety of reasons. For tactics, I am surprised by the effect from being there, hanging out with them.

These peer counseling skills can be taught, but much of it comes from skills everyone has. Of course, other support systems are required in some cases, and we do our best to work with them and refer people when appropriate.

Jacobsen: Karmik is a harm reduction organization. It tends to involve treatment, prevention, harm reduction, and enforcement. Some organizations will use all of those. Others will use some of those. What ones does Karmik use in assistance for youth activities?

Schwartz: In the context of the Four Pillars drug strategy, we are a harm reduction organization. It is important to recognize that is not the solution to everyone’s problems. However, it is the solution to some issues.

We will refer people to local services and other organizations to help them when necessary, but we operate from a harm reduction standpoint.

Jacobsen: What are some of Karmik’s main activities for BC youth?

Schwartz: We do outreach work including going to parties, raves, and music festivals. Beyond that, we work on policy. We are involved in various community meetings, for example, the DOAP, Drug Overdose Alert Partnership.

Jacobsen: We have the fentanyl crisis. Typically, it is associated with heroin now. Many have recommended naloxone kits to prevent death by overdose. How are things for youth regarding the crisis? Other substances of potential harm too.

Schwartz: The reality is that it is not one group or locality. The fentanyl epidemic has been affecting recreational users of many substances from all demographics, including youth.

It is an incredibly complex issue. One thing we advocate for is freely available access to drug checking. In terms of substances laced with adulterants, this would require lab quality testing to assess dosages in micrograms, which, in the case of fentanyl, can be active and fatal.

Jacobsen: What are the short-term initiatives for Karmik? Those that are not online at the moment.

Schwartz: We are advocating for easier access to fentanyl testing strips. It is a band-aid to a larger problem, though. It is something immediate and available, and we want to increase accessibility for those services.

While it is not necessarily something new, we try to train community members to distribute naloxone. We have been doing this in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health. We will try to have more autonomy with our own trainings to be the team to provide naloxone training to our community.

Jacobsen: How would you like the organization to grow? What impacts would you like to see?

Schwartz: One long-term project is the development of informational resources. I want to see Karmik continue to approach substance use and other harm reduction related issues based on evidence and research.

I want to see Karmik’s or other organizations’ services provided at more local events in addition to bigger events and productions. That would go a long way.

Image Credit: Cameron Schwartz/Karmik.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

An Interview with Alex Betsos, Co-Founder and Volunteer Coordinator of Karmik

*Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and concision.  Interview completed on November 12, 2016.*

Alex Betsos is the Volunteer Coordinator for Karmik, and is involved with organizing and running the volunteer training as well as coordinating volunteers and staff for events. Alex is sociology and anthropology honours student at Simon Fraser University with an interest in deviance, care, and the body. 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, how did you get involved in Karmik?

Alex Betsos: I grew up in Toronto. I was a high school raver. There was an organization there called the TRIP! Project. They set up booths.

They would hand out earplugs, ‘party packs’, speak about safer sex and substance use, and make sure people are good at the party.

So, with that background, I found that necessary, especially with younger, or even older, people who are using substances for the first time. Substances can have unexpected effects for first-time users.

For me, those experiences were important. I moved to Vancouver. When I moved there, no system was in place. There was an organization called Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP).

I met someone named Margaret Yu, who also felt a need for harm reduction information in Vancouver’s growing party scene.

CSSDP tried to start its own harm reduction group based on my training with the TRIP! Project before. Margaret Yu, who is no longer part of Karmik, met Munroe Craig, founder and outreach director of Karmik, through some online forums.

Between the three of us, we started working together. We had different ideologies, but similar interests and different skill sets that worked well together.

Back in 2011, there were deaths related to bad ecstasy. We saw the need for harm reduction services in Vancouver. We wanted to fill the niche.

Jacobsen: What are your tasks and responsibilities within Karmik?

Betsos: My basic title is volunteer coordinator. My role is to schedule the volunteer training, manage the volunteers, and post events on social media to make sure the volunteers have the chance to become involved with us. My background is in sociology and anthropology.

I tabulate the staff sheet information. At the end of the year, I create this data set. I use the information to show our progress. I do the writing for different things.

I wrote the youth prevention policy brief for the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). Also, we go to conferences to talk about harm reduction. So, I have a couple different jobs, which are ongoing. Volunteer coordinator is the main one.

Jacobsen: If you take the vision of Karmik, what is it? Where do you want to take Karmik into youth culture in a pragmatic sense?

Betsos: I want Karmik at events. Even if harm reduction is not necessarily needed at an event, it shows an event organizer cares about the people who are at their party. At the booth, we provide information about substance use and safe sex practices.

For example, most volunteers will talk about various drug combinations. They know how to walk through crowds if someone is not doing well. We talk about consent too. An anthropologist friend, Hilary Agro, talks about the “vibe” of the party.

When we talk about a good vibe or a bad vibe, it is not even necessarily about the music, but about the people. An aggressive, uncomfortable mentality has a spooky vibe. However, when you bring an organization like Karmik into it, you change the vibe.

You’re saying, “Having fun is great and awesome, we’re in this together. We are part of a community. We are here to support each other, especially in circumstances when something bad might happen.”

Image Credit: Munroe Craig/Karmik.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

An Interview with Munroe Craig – Founder and Outreach Director of Karmik

*Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability, and concision. Interview completed on November 19, 2016.*

Munroe Craig holds a Bachelors in Health Sciences with a Major in Addictions, as well as a substance use counselor diploma. She is an addiction counselor and operates from a philosophy of harm reduction in all aspects of her profession; specializing in expressive and creative therapies, she is also an active artist. 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was the inspiration for Karmik?

Munroe Craig: It is a great question. I love when people ask us it. It comes from many places. Obviously, Karmik was started through collaborative ideas and recognition of an identified need in the community. It did not come from one person.

I grew up in places like Toronto, Prairies, Central America, and Mexico. I am not from Vancouver. We have the TRIP! Project. It is run through the public health system there. For me, one of the first raves was the TRIP! Project in Toronto. I thought, “Wow! What is this?”

They have similar supports to Karmik at youth events. Many harm reduction organizations working in nightlife and community settings will have similar setups. Karmik keeps in line with things that work.

I was impacted by this experience. After that point, I was looking for it. I wanted to make sure something existed. I grew up in the arts and music scene. I participated in them and have done music for them. I have participated in numerous facets within my life.

I want to see the supports there. I have been around a bit. When I came to Vancouver, I moved here for professional life. I work in addictions, mental health, and social work as well. It is my day career.

When I moved out here, I was integrating into the communities more. I did not see many other projects like a TRIP! Project. I started to ask questions. I started to figure out if that existed in Vancouver. A program to fill the identified gap in public health in certain communities.

When I found none, I started to think about where I could place some skills there. From that point, I was active in online forums. I met Alex Betsos, who is the volunteer coordinator. He is another co-founder of Karmik.

Also, I met Margaret Yu there too. She is another co-founder. She stepped back in her duties. We recognized the same gap in public health. We have the same background in electronic music and festivals.

We did not see support for people in harm reduction. The inspiration came from that.

Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities come with Karmik?

Craig: I own the business. I am the outreach director too. I am the annoying person bugging somebody about an event, having harm reduction in their event or festival, or to talk and explore the new concept with me.

Also, I do back-end work with Karmik. Everyone in the organization will meet once a week on different tasks. I facilitate naloxone training. I am one of the first peer-to-peer trainers for naloxone. I do naloxone trainings with different community groups and all Karmik volunteers as part of training.

I do live event support as well. When on site for an event, I am one of the coordinators. Those are different people employed to Karmik to be the team leads. They manage, support, and interact with the event as well as managing the peers on shift with them.

Jacobsen: With the scope of Karmik, you mentioned harm reduction for the organization. What is harm reduction? Why is it the preferred strategy for Karmik?

Craig: Harm reduction can be applicable and accessible for many different people. It depends on perception. Harm reduction is any practice that reduces harm for an individual. No matter the category or stipulation that falls into.

It is a practice with yourself. It will reduce harms of any associated behaviours for you. We can think of how harm reduction is basic. When you cross the road, will you look left and right? That is harm reduction.

You are making a safer choice and decision based on education and information. It is about making informed decisions. You looked left and right to cross the road. How did you know to look left and right? How does that factor in as well?

A big part is increasing honest education for people, which is a component of harm reduction. It will empower them to make better choices for themselves in any situation, which is inherently leading to harm reduction behaviours in all situations. If we dig deeper into it, why is that a good choice?

I am trained as a Bachelor of Health Sciences with a Major in Addictions. Usually, I work as an addiction counsellor with youth with concurrent disorders. When we look at how people make decisions and care about their lives, it is about being empowered by the choices made by them.

We have an emphasis on their choices. Everyone can think back on times when people said, “You need to do this.” We reply, “Why do we need to do that?” Then somebody does not give a great answer. It does not feel great for us to do something. We do not feel connected to our reality.

We do not feel that we are engaging in our reality to create our own lives to lead. When we are actively engaged in our lives with genuine connection and passion, we will make better decisions for ourselves. We want to continue that in life.

First, it is a great way of increasing accessibility to honest education. We want to give people the right education and tools to make the right choices.

Second, it increases people’s empowerment and engagement with their own lives. It increases people’s want and desire to control their own lives. It creates a healthier life. It increases the confidence and ambition to take control.

We take control in a way considered the route of least resistance. We do not resist decisions that we want to inherently do ourselves. Harm reduction, when those choices are made in a healthier way, is related to that component as well.

We have to look at oppression and traumatized societies, peoples, and communities. The choices forced on us have not necessarily been the ones we wanted to make. Harm reduction has to do with supporting people from oppressed communities or traumatized communities.

Everyone has been to different areas of that in their lives. In regards to public health, the increased accessibility to honest public support for people to feel heard to make the right choices for themselves and their communities.

It is a no-brainer. Harm reduction works because it works. I appreciate the humour. I used to roll my eyes when I heard that. Just kidding, I never did because I always cared about this stuff.

It is a strategy of, by, and for the people. It has the people’s best interests at heart. Issues seen in BC, the funds allocated for treatment, and spending the money on harm reduction towards incarceration instead.

Media attention has been on looking at treatment programs and substance use support. Specifically, it looks at the reasons for them working and not working. Typically, the ones that do not work come from an oppressive mentality.

Harm reduction is another means to increase openness for people that want to connect and for people that want to do better for themselves.

Jacobsen: Looking into the present and into the future, what is the current scale of Karmik in terms of helping out youth activities and youth involved in them? And what are the plans for expanding operations?

Craig: I always want to expand. I am looking to expand further. We are passionate about how we want to move forward. It is moving forward quickly. It is a fantastic place. I am sure other people have noticed too. It is becoming a media hot topic.

People are having a voice. People are being heard. We have a lot on the horizon. Karmik facilitates music festivals and events. Harm reduction live support at music festivals and events. We train peer-to-peer support groups to travel into the city into the evening, even the early morning.

Maybe, we might travel for more than one day at events. We staff local, municipal, and exterior events in BC. Recently, we were hired for an event in Kamloops. Karmik is not in Vancouver alone. We run training programs. All peer support workers go through a rigorous training program, which we facilitate.

The workshops are done partially by Karmik coordinators including Alex and myself. Also, they are done by other members of the community. For example, we have a local organization called The Consent Crew, which runs a one-evening workshop on consent.

We have someone else that comes, who is associated with Vancouver Pride Society as well. They do the anti-oppression training. We have many ways to engage community members to further the positive causes and the harm reduction philosophy, and the intersections across different disciplines in the communities.

We run those sessions three times per year. They run for about six weeks. They are extensive and year-round. We attend drug policy conferences too. It is international and national. For example, I was at the Reform Conference in Washington last year. There is the International Reduction Conference happening in May, 2017.

Karmik works with different bodies of harm reduction organizations, nationally and internationally. We are part of lots of different projects on drug testing calls, task force groups with Vancouver and BCCDC, and so on.

We are in all of those spaces. On our off festival time, we are participating in all of these groups to move these projects forward. For conferences, we attend as Karmik. Other times, we attend as part of other harm reduction communities on panels.

If we get into International Harm Reduction Conference in May, 2017, in Montréal, we will be presenting with GRIP and ANKORS. GRIP is Montréal’s harm reduction, which is much like the Trip! Project. ANKORS is from Shambhala.

We work in different ways with others for social awareness and acceptance around harm reduction as well. I am working to expand Karmik into different communities and chapters. Something that has come up. It is not the public health authority.

In Vancouver, we have Vancouver Coastal Health. Karmik is well-connected with them. We have a great working relationship. Also, we are on the Healthlink BC website. It is information without funding, but a great working relationship together.

For example, if I get an event request for Kamloops, I would love to say, “Karmik chapter in Kamloops. Your interior health is different in Kamloops. I want a likeminded community to connect and do Karmik training, and to facilitate the event.” It would make the harm reduction connections in those communities.

Karmik does not have to, nor does it need to, do all of this. I would love to see others be able to step up. It would be to have the same power and accessibility for their communities. That is some of the work for the future.

We hired some new people for Karmik. We hired two new coordinators. Also, for someone as part of the full organization, we hired one individual. We are always looking to expand. There is so much interest in what we’re doing.

However, we want to give it its due diligence by admitting that we need more people on board with this. That is why we do hiring. It is based out of needs and the understanding that we’re growing rapidly and people want to grow with us.

In the future, we are always trying to run national and international drug testing projects. We are always on the tip of what is coming up, how to come together for Canada particularly, and so on.

I run harm reduction for Bamboo Bass Festival in Costa Rica in February every year, which is great. I manage a festival in harm reduction there. It is going to be exciting because it is the first year connecting with local organizations for Central America and South America.

There is one group, an NGO in San José with a friend named Ernesto, and another person from a Mexican city. They will be bringing their expertise to support us. We will be working together for the harm reduction for the Bamboo Bass Festival in Costa Rica.

Karmik is always extending internationally to move the harm reduction philosophy forward to help with parties in different regions. In Costa Rica, there is no data and no collection on research on harm reduction philosophy.

To be able to start moving those forward with any pragmatism, we need to collect the data, which is what we will be doing with their support. Also, we are always looking for funding. We will have some media come out, even some documentaries – keep an eye on our media page.

Currently, we take private donations. However, we are looking for external funding with the high tide of harm reduction. We will see what comes next!

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Munroe.

Craig: Yea, totally!

Image Credit: Munroe Craig/Karmik.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.