Activists took to the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Wednesday to give out free, clean samples of meth, cocaine, and heroin to raise awareness for British Columbia’s ongoing overdose emergency.
The Drug User Liberation Front, the group behind the protest, handed out the substances in order to demonstrate how drug regulation can save users’ lives. The protest also marks the grim five-year anniversary of British Columbia declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
The drugs that were given out by the Drug User Liberation Front were sourced from the dark web and tested by the group for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, as well as other harmful contaminants. The packaging was also clearly labeled with percentages of the substances they contained.
Several participants marvelled at the packaged drugs with labels showing exactly what they would be taking. Scott Joinson told The Tyee that he’d never taken unadulterated cocaine, and had overdosed several times.
“If it was done with government backing, then we would know what’s in our drugs. If it was sold in stores, people would know as consenting adults,” he said. “Take a look at what’s going on—the black market is forcing us to take adulterants, which is killing us.”
This all comes as the city of Vancouver and province of BC are petitioning Health Canada to decriminalize simple possession of all drugs. The city is pushing for what they consider a three-day supply, which would mean anyone carrying two grams of opioids, three grams of cocaine, one gram of crack, or 1.5 grams of amphetamines would not be criminally charged. Some argue that this amount will only last some drug users half a day, according to Vice.
With the drug supply in Canada becoming increasingly laced with unpredictable amounts of fentanyl and benzodiazepines, 2020 was the deadliest year for drug overdoses in the province, with over 1,716 people dying. An additional 329 deaths took place in the first two months of 2021.
Meanwhile, since April 14, 2016, illicit drugs have claimed the lives of at least 7,072 British Columbians, according to the BC Coroners Service.
“Stigma drives people to hide their drug use, avoid health care and use alone,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson told Global News.
“Through province-wide decriminalization, we can reduce the fear and shame that keep people silent about their drug use, and support people to reach out for help, life-saving supports, and treatment.”