The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Rod Rosenstein’s Cheap and Dangerous Shot at Vancouver’s Insite

Deputy U.S. attorney general argues for same old failed tactics in dealing with opioid crisis.

By Crawford Kilian 31 Aug 2018 |

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

Canadians, like Americans, know Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the United States, only because he appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election. That makes him something of a hero, one who often comes under attack from Donald Trump.

On Monday, Rosenstein went from hero to zero just by publishing an op-ed in The New York Times. “Fight Drug Abuse, Don’t Subsidize It,” he urged — and especially don’t fight it by establishing safe injection sites.

Rosenstein may be a great lawyer, but as a public health expert he’s just another charlatan. The great 19th-century German doctor and politician Rudolf Virchow famously observed that “Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale.” Or, in Rosenstein’s case, malpractice on a national scale.

Rosenstein notes that drug overdoses are now killing over 60,000 Americans a year (and doesn’t mention that’s almost twice as many as die by gunshot). He laments that “remarkably, law enforcement efforts actually declined while deaths were on the rise… The Trump administration is working to reverse those trends. Prosecutions of drug traffickers are on the rise, and the surge in overdose deaths is slowing.”

He gives no source for “slowing.” The most recent information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is from 2016, when the CDC reported that overdoses killed 63,632 Americans — two-thirds of them involving opioids. And that was a 21.5-per-cent increase from 2015.

Injection sites ‘dangerous’?

Rosenstein is alarmed that “some cities and counties are considering sponsoring centers where drug users can abuse dangerous illegal drugs with government help. Advocates euphemistically call them ‘safe injection sites,’ but they are very dangerous and would only make the opioid crisis worse.”

He goes on to describe how these sites’ “staff members help people abuse drugs by providing needles and stand ready to resuscitate addicts who overdose.” Clean needles! Resuscitated overdose cases! The horror!

After a litany of American cities considering such sites, Rosenstein says “they’re illegal,” and threatens the cities “should expect the Department of Justice to meet the opening of any injection site with swift and aggressive action.” He frets about the obvious — drugs may be laced with fentanyl or carfentanil — and warns that “a bystander or emergency medical worker who comes in contact with such drugs can be gravely harmed.” Perhaps so, but bystanders and first responders are more likely to come in contact with such substances in some dark alley than in a safe injection site.

And it’s precisely Insite that Rosenstein attacks. He cites just one source, a scandalized city councillor in Redmond, Washington, who visited the Downtown East Side last year and said “It was the most depraved scene I’ve witnessed in person.” He derided “Seattle’s far left politicians” for wanting safe injection sites there.

Rosenstein certainly didn’t check with Vancouver Coastal Health, which helps run Insite and reported last year:

“From Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2017, there were 119,395 visits to the supervised injection room at Insite. Among those, 1.2 per cent visits resulted in an overdose. 10,534 visits used the injection room in November 2017, that was 4.1 per cent decrease over the average number of visits in the previous three months (10,980) visits, and nine per cent decrease over the number of visits in November 2016 (11,544 visits). 94 visits resulted in an overdose in November 2017, a 19 per cent decline over the average overdoses during the previous three months (117 overdoses), and 61 per cent decrease over the number of overdoses in November 2016 (239 overdoses).”

Sure, the DTES is a grim place, and all of B.C. suffers a growing number of overdose deaths. The B.C. Coroners Service recently reported 134 suspected drug overdose deaths in July, a 25-per-cent increase over June. We are now running an average of 125.4 overdose deaths a month in 2018, up from 120.8 last year, 82.8 in 2016, and 30.7 in 2014.

But there were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.

Rosenstein claims that “injection sites destroy the surrounding community. When drug users flock to a site, drug dealers follow, bringing with them violence and despair, posing a danger to neighbours and law-abiding visitors.” He ignores the fact that dealers and injection sites tend to congregate where the users are. If anything, Insite and similar sites are a sign of health in their communities, not a symptom of malaise.

With casual citation that would earn him a rebuke from any judge, Rosenstein mentions “some estimates” that only 10 percent of safe injection site users get treatment. But zero percent of fatal overdose cases get treatment, and we would have far more deaths than we do without Insite. If nothing else, drug users can walk away from Insite having bought a little more time to get a grip on their lives.

As an intelligent and highly educated lawyer, Rosenstein must know how “swift and aggressive action” has abjectly failed to stop the opioid catastrophe, just as it failed against cocaine and heroin and psychedelics and marijuana. Yet here he is, wading into a public health crisis even deadlier than gun violence, prescribing yet more of the same swift and aggressive action.

Especially given his sycophantic reference to “the Trump administration,” Rosenstein’s op-ed looks more like a move to please his boss than a sincere effort to address a health disaster. Perhaps he has good reason to fear Trump will fire him and then get rid of Mueller, and thinks some swift and aggressive claptrap in The New York Times will buy him some time — just like an Insite user.  [Tyee]

Read more: Health

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll