Roughly 4,000 Canadians died in 2017 from opioid overdose. One potential answer to this issue, at least for Canadians, is the use of marijuana.

A program called the High Hopes harm reduction program is run by the High Hopes Foundation in Vancouver, Canada. The program offers free marijuana as an alternative to the harder drugs. The foundation is also the first full-time cannabis harm reduction program in North America, and the Vancouver location went so far as to be the first legal supervised injection site for the continent as well.

The program view is that there are many underlying causes for a drug addiction. Therefore, it’s not as simple as to detox from the drug of choice and get back to living a normal, productive life. In order to address those underlying issues, such as depression, chronic pain, etc. it’s necessary to find an alternative solution. This is where marijuana comes in.

One reported study shows that marijuana users are 55% less likely to report an overdose than users of harder drugs. This may be related to the fact that cannabis does not include fentanyl.

The foundation goes beyond offering marijuana, which has been collected from donors who obtain the drug legally. They also offer fentanyl testing strips at no cost, since most of the drugs tested by the foundation show traces of fentanyl. This increases the risk of overdose.

The foundation hopes to obtain marijuana more easily once nationwide legalization goes into effect in October. Meanwhile, those who hand out the marijuana recognize it is not a legal endeavour, but they feel that trying to help people who might otherwise die is more important than adhering strictly to the laws currently in place.

Many of those who work for High Hopes have their own history of drug issues, which helps them understand those who take harder drugs and increase their desire to help these users find a better alternative.