On Wednesday, the members of the Drug User Liberation Front aka DULF handed out free heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, BC.

It’s the third time that the organization has taken the issue of safe supply into its own hands. Overdose death was declared a provincial emergency back in 2016 and many feel that the government is not doing enough. To raise awareness and honour the 1716 lives lost to overdose death in 2020, DULF distributed free, clean drugs for a day. 

What was given to who?

According to a press release posted on their website, all drugs were tested via FTIR spectrometry and immunoassay; and are free of fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, benzodiazepines, and many other harmful cuts, buffs, or adulterants.

All drugs were prepackaged and everyone who got them was pre-screened ahead of time; nothing was weighted or prepared at the pickup location. The Drug User Liberation Front gave out little packaged boxes filled with tested bags of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, all for free.

Why?

In April 2016, Drug overdoses were declared a Provincial Emergency. Since then, little has been done to change the situation.

During this overdose epidemic, there has been a noticeable lack of involvement from both the Provincial and Federal Governments and this has created a call for action. Rather than change legislation or create programs to help, drug enforcement actions continue to the detriment of the community. For more information, read about the latest threat to one of BC’s oldest non-profit cannabis compassion club, The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club.

Photo credit: Matt Love

The Drug User Liberation Front

Unable to stand aside and watch, a coalition of over thirty-eight community-based organizations got together to try and do something to help. Calling themselves the Drug User Liberation Front, the group took a look at the bigger picture and began to research to find a solution.

Studies have been done on drug use, addiction, and overdose prevention and the evidence is clear, the war on drugs did not save communities, it ended lives. Reports from The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, UNAIDS, Human Rights Watch and The BC Centre on Substance Use all agree that the approach should be harm reduction. But, as overdose rates continue to rise, many feel that it’s just not enough, that we need a safe street drug supply now. For DULF, that meant taking matters into their own hands.

Hoping to raise awareness, the group wrote an open letter to Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu to explain their actions and make two demands:

  1. Facilitate, fund, and support de facto Compassion Clubs in B.C. that can legally distribute clean, safe drugs to pre-screened adults.
  2. Exempt all people who access or provide life-saving support at a Compassion Club from criminal consequences including charges of possession and trafficking. (Under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act)

It only lasted for one day but it’s the third time they have done it, and it may not be the last. “On this day, lives will be saved because these drugs won’t be laced with fentanyl or other dangerous substances. The drugs will not be given to children, only pre-screened and verified adults, who would otherwise risk their lives buying illicit drugs off the street.”

Photo Credit: Trey Patric Helten

Discussions are healthy. For some, the concept of a safe supply sounds great but seems bizarre when put into practice; for others, access to free, clean drugs instantly makes sense. What do you think about this approach? What would you like to see from our government? Please comment and share your opinion.

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