THE HISTORY OF THE NON-POTABLE ALCOHOL AND INHALANT ABUSE COMMITTEE


        The initial meeting of the Non-Potable Alcohol Abuse Coalition Committee took place on November 29, 1991.
 

        The formulation of this committee was a result of a variety of high alcohol, non-potable products being consumed by street alcoholics as a beverage and the profiteering of some retail store vendors being considered nothing less than disgusting. These products included Chinese cooking wine, rubbing alcohol, muscle massage liquid, Lysol disinfectant spray. various aftershaves and stomach bitters. The most prevalent product was muscle massage liquid (91% alc/vol) and its relative. First Step Antiseptic Cleanser liquid (69% alc/vol).
 

        Original members of this committee were representatives from Main Street Project, Klinic Incorporated/Substance Abuse Coalition, Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association, a pharmacist/owner (Broadway Pharmacy). Member of Parliament and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission.
 

        Since then a variety of agencies have participated to curb the continued abuse of non-potable alcohol problems and now includes inhalant abuse. The following is an overview of previous legislation and the progress that the committee has made to date:
 
 

May 1978 - Manitoba Regulation 88/78- medicated stomach bitters regulation requires a maximum four ounce size and is allowed to be retailed in shops and stores other than those operated by the Commission.
 

February 1990 - Enactment of the Manitoba Liquor Control Rubbing Alcohol Regulation 96/90 - restricting the sale of rubbing alcohol to pharmacy dispensaries.
 

July 1991 - A house fire in Winnipeg, resulting in two deaths because of individuals drinking Lysol and a new rubbing alcohol (muscle massage liquid) product (91% Ethel alcohol) not covered under existing legislation.
 

August 1991 - As the July fire is indicative of the ongoing problem, Larry Leroux requested that a meeting be held at the Pharmaceutical Association office to discuss the issue of non-potable alcohol abuse. The new product involved in the July 1991 fire is manufactured to seemingly side step the legislation.
 

August 1991 - Muscle massage liquid is deemed to fall within the definition of  the Liquor Control Act, Manitoba Regulation 96/90 and must be sold (retail) only by a licensed pharmacist from a dispensary in a licensed pharmacy
 

November 29, 1991 - The initial meeting of the Non-Potable Alcohol Abuse Coalition Committee was to discuss the new product. in particular. and the consumption of non-potable (non-beverage) alcohol, in general.
 

December 1991 - Offending product involved in fire and being consumed as a beverage is now covered under the legislation and restricted for sale.
 

April 1992 - The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission tests cooking wines and ethnic liquors and deems 24 out of 26 as potable and must; therefore, only be sold from licensed liquor outlets.
 

  • Manitoba's Chief Medical Examiner attributes at least four and as many as ten deaths to the consumption of cooking wine.
May 1992 - Honourable Linda McIntosh during a session of the Legislative Assembly recognizes the work of the Coalition in finding solutions to the issue of non-potable alcohol abuse.
 

June 1992 - Legislation enacted to prevent the retail sale of cooking wine in excess of  20% alcohol, prevent sale to individuals that are intoxicated, broaden the definition non-potable alcohol (to include items like Lysol and hair spray) and establish minimum fines for individuals found convicted of selling non-beverage alcohol for consumption.
 

November 1992 - Coalition starts to examine current legislation covering "sniff' abuse, as well as continued action on non-potable alcohol issues.
 

January 1993 - Even with the changes in legislation, the Courts do not seem to place importance on the cases appearing for the sale of non-potable alcohol products for consumption. Provincial Minister of Justice agrees to do an inquiry.
 

February 1993 - Director of Winnipeg Prosecutions issues a directive to all Crown Attorneys to place a greater importance and diligence on cases involving the illegal sale of non-potable alcohol.
 

April 1993 - As it was never part of the Coalition's efforts to reform the "street alcoholic", the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission is asked to decrease prices on fortified wines and open the outlet located in the core area earlier in the morning.
 

May 1993 - Early morning opening (08:00 a.m.) of  Main & Manitoba liquor outlet and decreased prices for fortified wines is accomplished and has a positive impact.
 

June 1993 - Manufacturer of Lysol brand spray agrees to monitor and where necessary limit the distribution of their product to retail vendors that appear problematic and to also perform periodical checks.
 

September 1993 - The Coalition initiates work to develop an information kit to retail vendors explaining the issue, legal responsibility and harm in selling non-potable alcohol as a beverage.
 

March 1994 - Funding secured for the production of 700 information kits on the abuse of non-potable alcohol. The Coalition decides to rename to the Non-Potable Alcohol Abuse Committee.
 

May 1994 - Committee Chair Larry Leroux, announces the release of the information kit at a press conference hosted by Winnipeg Police Service. The covering letter in the kit is prepared in five different languages as lack of English comprehension is often used by defence lawyers,
 

November 1994 - Many kits are distributed personally by Winnipeg Police Service and most of the 700 information kits are distributed throughout Manitoba by RCMP members, and parts of Canada that have a similar problem.
 

December 1994 - Monitoring of key court cases results in further changes to definitions under The Liquor Control Act and Manitoba Regulations (Manitoba Regulation 210/94).
 

January 1995 - Committee places greater emphasis on the review of the Minors Intoxicating Substance Control Act. The current provincial legislation is unenforceable to curtail the sale and abuse of' sniff products.

  •  An insert is prepared describing the problem of "sniff' and is included in the remaining kits and delivered to certain vendors.
October 1995 - Proposed changes to existing "anti-sniff' legislation are forwarded to the provincial Minister of Health. Changes will remove the age restriction, establish minimal fines and penalties for illegal sale and prescribe treatment for users.
 

November 1995 - Funding secured and another 2000 non-potable alcohol information kits, now including a section on inhalant abuse, are printed for distribution.
 

February 1996 - Inspection of retail store outlets for Chinese cooking wine results in no incidents or findings.
 

April 1996 - Health Minister McCrae writes Minister of Justice Vodrey to keep anti sniff legislation issue a priority.
 

May 1996 - Minors Intoxicating Substance Control Act changes will not go through this year due to the possibility that constitutional rights may be impacted with the inclusion of adults.
 

June 1996 - Northern Manitoba retailer is convicted of selling hair spray as a beverage on a dry reserve for $80.00 a container. He is sentenced to 15 days in jail.
 

September 1996 - Early opening of Manitoba Liquor Control Commission liquor store at Pritchard and Main, adjusts early opening hours from 08:00 a.m. to 09:00 a.m, to satisfy a variety of business concerns in the area.
 

February 1997 - Proposed amendments to the Minors Intoxicating Substances Act deemed to jeopardize the constitutionality of the legislation.
 

March 1997 - Minister of Justice, Vic Toews, acknowledges the seriousness of the issue and assigns Glen Lewis, Program and Policy Consultant to facilitate the short and long term goals of the Committee in Combating Sniff Abuse.
 

June 1997 - Gord MacKintosh. NDP - MLA, introduces Bill 106 calling for amendments to the Minors Intoxicating Substances Control Act and is rejected due to the Minister of Justice, Vic Toew's view that it' s essentially criminal law and that is Ottawa's jurisdiction.
 

December 1997 - Non Potable Alcohol Abuse Committee discusses the hosting of a national conference on Non-Potable Alcohol and Inhalants.
 

February 1998 - Steering Committee is formed for hosting the national conference.
 

  • Member of Parliament, Lloyd Axworthy, directs a member of his office to participate as a committee member.


March 1998 - Non-Potable Alcohol Abuse Committee sends a letter to Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice and Attorney General at the House of Commons, to develop legislation to combat inhalant abuse.
 

  • Conference dates are set
  • for June 6. 7 and 5. 1999.
April 1998 - North Main B.I.Z. sends a special alert to its members requesting help to curtail the sale of substances to substance abusers in the North Main B.I.Z. area.
 

August 1998 - Response received from Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice and Attorney General indicating that a Federal/Provincial/Territorial Multi-Disciplinary Committee of senior officials have been established to develop responses to illicit drug use and emerging abuse problems.
 

November 1998 - Committee name changed to Non-Potable Alcohol and Inhalant Abuse Committee.
 

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