Vancouver has a drug problem.
And it’s not just that a lot of people use them—which they do—but that the city and government has so far been unable to keep them from overdosing at an alarming rate.
Overdose numbers in the West Coast city have risen from 1,765 in 2020 to 2,224 in 2021, marking a 25 percent increase and signalling the complexity and importance of the issue. It’s a problem that isn’t unique to Canada, either, but is out of control, particularly in Vancouver.
To prove that access to clean street drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, could immediately help to mitigate the number of overdoses, several non-profit groups are banding together to give out free three-and-a-half gram doses of the different narcotics. The drugs will be made available to members of two of the participating nonprofit and distributed at their offices in the city’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) on Wednesday.
The groups said in a press release that all of the drugs they supplied to people were rigorously tested and free from fentanyl, benzodiazepines and other harmful shit that they’re so often cut with.
“We are breaking the law [by giving our illegal narcotics] to try to keep each other safe,” Garth Mullins, board member of the BC Association of People on Opiate Maintenance (BCAPOM) , said in the release.
The participating groups, which include BCAPOM, the Drug User Liberation Front and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, also held a gathering to ask politicians to take the opioid crisis more seriously.
They demanded the following:
“1. All levels of government must immediately fund programs for safe and accessible supplies of all drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth, by directly listening to user groups and people who use drugs, and covering these drugs under Provincial Health Insurance by adding them to the formularies, or allow us to create routes of access ourselves.
2. All levels of government must immediately develop an accessible legal framework that decriminalizes, licenses, funds, and provides facility spaces for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine compassion clubs.
3. All government commissions on drug policy, safe supply, and decriminalization must include meaningful representation from drug user groups.”
It’s not the first time that free drugs have been handed out to people living in Vancouver’s DTES. Last spring, the Drug User Liberation Front held a similar event where they gave away cocaine, meth, and heroin, which had been sourced on the Dark Web and checked for fentanyl before it was distributed.