The Regulation of Rice Wine in the Downtown Eastside: A Critical Assessment

Shereen Hassan, Simon Fraser University

Alcohol and drug abuse has been rampant amongst those who live in or who frequent the downtown eastside of Vancouver, Canada, for several years. There are numerous forms in which alcohol in particular can be consumed that are not conventionally deemed potable. Amongst these is rice wine. Although intended for use as a cooking ingredient in Chinese cuisine, this product has been an attractive beverage for severe alcoholics due its high concentrations in alcohol and due to the fact that it is relatively inexpensive. By virtue of the geographic proximity of the core of the downtown eastside to Chinatown, the availability of this product has undoubtedly had a detrimental impact. Efforts to date have focused on reducing harm by directly controlling its availability. Following along these lines, a provincial regulation was passed in 1999 controlling the sale and distribution of this product. Rice wine has since been available exclusively in liquor stores province-wide. As the impact of this policy has not yet been assessed, the purpose of this paper is to highlight some of the issues that need to be addressed in such an assessment. More specifically, the purpose is to consider the historical context from which this regulatory policy emerged, and to consider the threat displacement may pose to such an evaluation.

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Updated 05/20/2006