Substance Use Statement

Note: This document replaces our Sober Space Statement and was adopted by the Firestorm Collective on 4/6/21. See also, Statement of Intention For Our Space.

Firestorm has historically represented itself as a sober space. Starting in 2017, our relationship to Harm Reduction began to complicate this understanding. We now find it necessary to articulate the specific relationship between our project and drugs, drug use, and intoxication, as well as the related boundaries that we seek to maintain in our space.

As former and current drug users, we do not approach substance use as a moral question and reject the stigmatization of individuals who use drugs.

We’ve developed our boundaries in the context of being a space of encounter (see our Space Use Statement and Anti-Oppression Statement). Maintaining a public space, we navigate sometimes overwhelming tension and outright conflict, often with individuals we do not know. In the early years of our project, we experienced near constant intrusions into our space by aggressive white men under the influence of alcohol. As a result of systemic factors like gentrification, this struggle has been compounded in recent years by a dramatic increase in the use of opioids in and around our space, often by individuals who are experiencing overlapping life crises. Members of our team feel both the stress of acting as de facto “first responders” to medical emergencies, including overdose, and being under attack by segments of the community who believe that we are directly responsible for the overdose and housing crises due to our public solidarity with drug users and unhoused neighbors.

Our Boundaries

While it is not possible or desirable for us to monitor and control the behavior of individuals visiting our space, we request that the use of recreational and illicit drugs not occur in or around our co-op, that individuals not spend time in our space while intoxicated, and that recreational and illicit drugs not be brought into our co-op.

In circumstances where these requests are being conspicuously disregarded we will request that individuals leave our space. In the event that it is necessary to repeatedly intervene in this way, we will ask folks not to return.

The potential contradiction of being a space that excludes recreational drug use but serves caffeine, a productivity-drug with a unique role in disciplining the capitalist workforce, is not lost on our collective. This is a tension with which we have decided to coexist for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, we do not believe that caffeine is a substance that complicates our ability to achieve inclusion, consent, or accountability in our community.

Inclusion / Exclusion

We find that there are few queer spaces in our community where drugs are not present. For some of us this has resulted in a sense of isolation, diminishing our ability to connect and find solidarity among peers. With this in mind, we opened Firestorm consciously deciding to prioritize space for youth, people at higher risk of arrest, people triggered by inebriation, and those in recovery.

Just as “intoxication culture” can exclude participation, we acknowledge that “sober culture” can exclude individuals for whom sobriety is not an option or is otherwise undesirable. All members of our community deserve to have spaces in which they are welcomed with minimal barriers to participation. However, as just one space with limited resources, Firestorm cannot host every activity and experience. 

Harm Reduction

Buying into the moralistic frameworks designed to marginalize and oppress people who actively use drugs will never be a radical act. Anti-drug sentiments have been used historically to exclude active drug users from a range of activist movements.

Zoë Dodd & Alexander McClelland, The Revolution Will Not Be Sober

Beginning in 2016, we became a host site for The Steady Collective, a harm reduction organization known for its distribution of safer injecting supplies and naloxone. In our neighborhood, Steady serves a largely houseless population, who experience a form of extreme marginalization in which simply existing in public is almost impossible.

We have fought to defend the services offered by Steady from our space, but we recognize that much more is needed by our community, including safe consumption sites, low barrier shelters, 24-hour public bathrooms, and full decriminalization. Further, we are sick and tired of seeing our friends and neighbors unable to access detox or treatment programs that meet their needs, including medication assisted treatment (MAT).

Further Reading

No war but the class war – no cocktail but the molotov cocktail! Let us brew nothing but trouble!"

CrimethInc, Wasted Indeed: Anarchy & Alcohol

The following texts were of great value to us in the crafting of this statement and we recommend them to others engaged with the topic: