There's a new type of quick convenience stop on the block in Canada, and it's selling crack pipes.
Last year, a Canadian nonprofit organization installed crack pipe vending machines in Vancouver as part of a plan to curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis among drug users, The Globe and Mail reports. Apparently, the two polka-dot vending machines, which sell the smoking devices for $0.25, have become quite the hit.
Operated by the Portland Hotel Society, the machines hold 200 pipes and are restocked every five days. One of the crack pipe vending machines is located within the organization's Drug Users Resource Center, while another was placed in a nearby convenience store, Global News notes.
The initiative to offer safe supplies to habitual crack cocaine users stems from similar harm-reduction programs -- like clean needle exchanges. In 2011, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority launched a pilot program and handed out pipes in the city's Downtown Eastside for free.
With its vending machines, the DURC has the same aim.
"For us, this was about increasing access to safer inhalation supplies in the Downtown Eastside,” DURC Director Kailin See told CTV Vancouver.
See also hopes that by offering the clean pipes for such a low price, the plan will devalue the smoking devices across the board.
"If a user has to choose between buying a rock for 10 dollars or buying a pipe, he is going to buy the rock,” Downtown Eastside resident Clyde Wright recently told The Globe and Mail.
When crack cocaine users share pipes, or construct their own makeshift devices, the risk of injury and spreading infection increases.
While the organization argues that the initiative would inhibit the transmission of HIV and other diseases among habitual users, Canada's federal government has taken issue with the vending machines.
"We disagree with promoters of this initiative. Drug use damages the health of individuals and the safety of our communities," Canadian Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney said in a statement Saturday, according to The Independent. "[T]his Government supports treatment that ends drug use, including limiting access to drug paraphernalia by young people."