Heroin is distributed for free in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
On Wednesday, members of the Drug User Liberation Front, also known as DULF, were distributing free heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine in downtown Eastside in Vancouver, BC.
It is the third time that the organization has taken the issue of safe care into its own hands. Death from overdose was declared a provincial emergency back in 2016, and many believe the government is not doing enough. To raise awareness and honor the lives lost in the 1716 overdose in 2020, DULF distributed free, clean medication for a day.
What was given to whom?
According to a press release posted on their website, all drugs were tested using FTIR spectrometry and immunoassay. and are free from fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, benzodiazepines and many other harmful cuts, buffs or adulterants.
All drugs were prepackaged and pre-screened everyone who received them; Nothing was weighted or prepared at the pick-up location. The Drug User Liberation Front distributed small packaged boxes of tested bags containing heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine free of charge.
In April 2016, overdosing was declared a provincial emergency. Little has been done since then to change the situation.
During this overdose epidemic, there was a noticeable lack of involvement from both provincial and federal governments and this has resulted in a call to action. Instead of changing laws or developing programs to help, drug enforcement policies continue to harm the community. For more information, see the latest threat to one of the oldest nonprofit cannabis compassion clubs in British Columbia, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club.
Photo credit: Matt Love
The drug users’ liberation front
A coalition of over thirty-eight community-level organizations could not step aside and watch 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 researching to find a solution.
Studies of drug use, addiction and overdose prevention have been conducted and the evidence is clear, the war on drugs did not save communities, it ended lives. Reports from the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, UNAIDS, Human Rights Watch, and the BC Center on Substance Use agree that the approach should be harm reduction. But as overdose rates continue to rise, many believe that it just isn’t enough that we need safe drug supplies on the streets now. For DULF that meant taking matters into their own hands.
Hoping to raise awareness, the group wrote an open letter to Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu to explain their actions and to make two demands:
- Facilitating, funding, and supporting de facto compassion clubs in BC that can legally distribute clean, safe medication to pre-screened adults.
- Liberate anyone who has access to a compassion club or who provides life-saving assistance from criminal charges, including charges of possession and human trafficking. (According to Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act)
It only took me a day, but it’s the third time they’ve done it, and it may not be the last. “This is the day that lives are saved because these drugs are not mixed with fentanyl or other dangerous substances. The drugs are not given to children, only to previously screened and verified adults who would otherwise risk their lives buying illegal drugs off the street. “
Photo credit: Trey Patric Helten
Discussions are healthy. The concept of safe care sounds great to some, but it seems bizarre in practice. For others, immediate access to free, clean medicines makes sense. What do you think of this approach? What would you like to see from our government? Please comment and share your thoughts.