Brother of overdose sufferer plans to open brick-and-mortar retailer promoting onerous medicine in Vancouver

Because the possession of small quantities of onerous medicine is about to be decriminalized in B.C. on the finish of the month, one man says he needs to take protected provide to a different stage.

A 3-year pilot mission accredited by Well being Canada will decriminalize the possession of as much as 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA within the province beginning Jan. 31 for British Columbians age 18 and older.

Jerry Martin, 51, says he plans to open a brick-and-mortar retailer in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to promote heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and different substances he says will probably be examined and be safer for consumption than medicine purchased on the road.

Even when the province says it is not authorized.

Jerry Martin wearing a grey shirt that says "I Make Cute Babies" stands with his dog.
Jerry Martin says he hopes to supply a protected provide and house for folks battling drug habit. (Justine Beaulieu-Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

After spending 15 years on the road and getting sober from onerous medicine, Martin says he feels he has an obligation to assist finish the stigma round drug customers and folks on the Downtown Eastside, particularly since his brother died of an overdose a few months in the past.

He says daily a retailer just like the one he envisions will not be open is one other day individuals are dying, or are at risk.

Based on the newest information from the B.C. Coroners Service, 14,000 folks have died for the reason that province declared a public well being emergency over the opioid and poisonous drug disaster in 2016.

“Opioids and dying from these type of issues, it is a main a part of the disaster however that is not the one half,” he mentioned.

He provides that “predators” on the Downtown Eastside typically reap the benefits of folks utilizing and buying onerous medicine.

“Getting robbed, getting offered one thing that is not what it needs to be — worry and violence is the primary.”

By having the medicine examined, Martin not solely hopes to forestall overdoses and deaths, however additionally provide a protected place for folks battling habit.

He says his plan is to promote solely to adults and provide 2.5 grams at a time.

Each buy may even include a little bit of schooling: Martin says he’ll warn prospects in regards to the risks of utilizing medicine, and direct them towards neighbourhood sources that may assist them get clear, give them a spot to spend the night time, or provide one thing to eat.

However B.C.’s Ministry of Psychological Well being and Addictions says the decriminalization of people that use medicine will not be the identical as legalization.

“Mr. Martin’s mission will not be inside the scope of decriminalization,” the ministry mentioned in an electronic mail assertion. “The promoting (or trafficking) of managed substances stays unlawful.”

The ministry says police will keep the power to implement legal guidelines pertaining to drug trafficking after Jan. 31.

‘Issues needs to be getting examined beforehand’: activist

Dana Larsen, a hashish and drug coverage reform activist, says he thinks Martin’s thought will catch on. 

A partially bald man with a grey goatee looks at the camera with a slight smile. He's wearing a red and white checkered shirt.
Dana Larsen, a hashish and drug coverage reform activist, says he thinks different drug activists and advocates will do one thing much like Jerry Martin’s thought as soon as a brand new decriminalization pilot mission comes into impact on Jan. 31. (Justine Beaulieu-Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

“I feel it is a good suggestion,” Larsen advised Radio-Canada. “To attempt to create the protected drug provide it appears everybody agrees we want, nevertheless it’s not being created by authorities or anybody else.”

In 2019, Larsen based Get Your Medication Examined, a free testing website on East Hastings Road. Martin says he hopes to get the medicine for his future retailer examined at Larsen’s website.

Larsen says he anticipates a lot of related tasks to pop up throughout the town within the subsequent 12 months. 

He provides that on the streets, heroin has virtually been utterly changed by fentanyl.

The words Get Your Drugs Tested are seen on an awning over a storefront on East Hastings Street. A customer walks through the door below an open sign.
The doorway to the free Get Your Medication Examined sited on East Hastings Road is seen at night time. Dana Larsen based the testing website. (Justine Beaulieu-Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

“This stuff needs to be getting examined beforehand,” Larsen mentioned.

“They need to be labelled, and folks ought to know what they’re getting beforehand, like with some other substance.”

‘It is simply serving to folks’

Whereas his enterprise mannequin has been mapped out, Martin continues to be on the lookout for a industrial rental house, he says.

Although he is not certain when he’ll be capable of open — and although he additionally totally expects police to arrest him and shut down the store as soon as he does — he is adamant he’ll comply with by on his plan.

“It is simply serving to folks,” he mentioned. 

“I do not really feel like I am me except I am doing that.”