The enforcement of drug laws should be less hurtful than the dangers inherent in drug use itself, say the "harm reductionists" at Prevention Point, who practice what they preach by distributing 1.5 million needles to the city's drug users.
Faced with long waits in the bulk line - one 20-year-old waif counts out 222 needles, five by five - conversation turns to the state of city services and library hours.
"Hey, come over to my place before we go to the library."
"You come over to my place."
"Well I don't know where you live."
"I'm in the book."
"Well, I got a fractured foot."
A can of whipped cream makes the rounds, not just as a yummy topping for the two pints of ice cream being vortexed, but as a convenient source of nitrous hits. Emptied of its precious fluids, the can is carefully set down by a city tree.
A black man of about 45 enters the line with his 3-year-old son, who immediately sets to work rattling the parking lot's cyclone fencing. I say that the kid will soon be climbing over the fence instead of just rattling it.
"Yes," the man agrees, "they're smarter now. TV helps. Sometimes it helps in the wrong way."
He gets to the head of the line and starts counting out his points; his hands shake slightly, enough that he breaks off the orange protector caps covering the needles. The bright caps fall to the sidewalk in a way that mesmerizes the little boy, but only for a moment. He's had it with standing around waiting.
"Daddy, I want to go play in the park."
"OK, just a minute. Sixteen, 18 ..."
"Well, just wait a minute until I get done. Go wait over by the fence." He tops out at 54.
"Gimme half shorts and half longs." That done, the two walk downhill holding hands, to find a place where Daddy can shoot clean.