It's time to take a serious look at regulating drugs, according to the director of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).
Ann Livingston said it's been easy for officials to brush off anti-prohibition advocates as "users wanting free drugs" but the region's growing gang violence - fueled by the drug trade - and serious research coming out of think-tanks is adding weight to the argument.
"We need to look at overall drug policy," the VANDU director said. "You have to for the fact that the illegal drug market here is now bigger than the legal one. But there's also a lot of work being done now looking at a regulated drug market and trying to attach a dollar figure on it."
Livingston estimates that in the Downtown Eastside alone, $500,000 gets spent on crack cocaine after a welfare day.
"It's a phenomenal amount of cash," she said.
And Livingston says she's noticed more and more drug dealers flooding the DTES to get a piece of the pie.
"They just stand outside the shops," she said. "It's like they're marking their territory."
To get that product out of criminal's hands, Livingston said the entire system has to change so drug addiction is seen - and managed - as a medical issue.
There have been 40 shootings throughout the Lower Mainland since Jan. 18, with many linked to the drug trade.