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Last Door opens door to new digital currency
The Last Door Recovery Society is opening a new door for supporters to donate to the New Westminster addiction treatment centre.
Last Door is the first charity in British Columbia to accept bitcoins, a digital currency that is gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional money.
Since establishing its bitcoin wallet in December, Last Door has received two donations in the currency. Clients can also use bitcoins to pay for services.
It's all about reducing barriers and making it simpler for supporters to make payments to Last Door, said Matt Kalenuik, an addictions counsellor and proponent behind the move to accept bitcoins.
"There's a particular culture that is big into bitcoin," said Kalenuik. "They want to participate in the grassroots movement of bitcoin."
Bitcoin was developed as open source software in 2009 and was first used for a financial transaction a year later. It's become popular as an alternate currency because it can circumvent inflation, control by governments and international sanctions.
It's also speculative. As there are only a finite number of bitcoins available, they can increase in value as they gain popularity. Currently a single bitcoin is valued at more than $800. A year ago one was worth just $13. Some experts say a bitcoin could eventually be worth $100,000, comparing them to Internet domain names that can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars if they contain a common or easily-recognized word.
Bitcoin has also become a tool for money laundering in some circles, an irony that's not lost on Kalenuik.
"There are people who use bitcoins to buy and sell drugs," said Kalenuik. "We're the flip side of that; people can use bitcoins to get off drugs."
He and fellow counsellor Dan Marks have been personally playing around with bitcoins since 2011. With more and more mainstream businesses starting to pay attention to the currency, they decided the time was right to get Last Door involved.
"We've tended to be innovative in many things," said Kalenuik. "We were the first non-smoking addictions treatment centre, the first to offer couples therapy."
Bitcoin also allows Last Door to plug into a demographic that's tech-savvy and open to new ideas.
"Bitcoin has generated a lot of discussion about the way people think about money, and our current monetary system," said Kalenuik. "We feel we want to tap into that."
After Last Door's board of directors approved the adoption of bitcoin, the society then had to get clarification of its tax implications from the Canada Revenue Agency.
Essentially they ruled a bitcoin has no value until its converted into traditional Canadian currency, explained Kalenuik. If a donor requests an immediate tax receipt, Last Door will cash out the bitcoins right away. Otherwise, it can keep the bitcoins in its digital wallet and hope they increase in value.
"People are starting to pay attention to bitcoin," said Kalenuik. "We believe in it."