Free Heroin, Cocaine and Meth Distributed in Front of Police Department

A group of advocates for the safe supply of drugs in British Columbia distributed free heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine outside the Vancouver Police Department in protest of existing drug policy.

According to a press release from the Drug User Liberation Front, or DULF, they teamed up with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, or VANDU, to hand out a free, safe supply of illicit drugs on Wednesday. The groups, both of which stand for change legislatively and socially in the access to a safe supply of drugs, gave out samples of heroin, meth and cocaine that was pre-tested and proven to not contain toxic mixes associated with overdoses.

Harm reduction activist and DULF member Eris Nyx spoke to Newsweek about the demonstration, citing British Columbia's declaration of overdose health emergency in 2016.

TODAY, 1PM: VANDU and @DULFBC will be distributing clean heroin, meth, and cocaine outside the @VancouverPD station at Main and Cordova. Block party at Hastings and Cordova at 2PM.

— VANDU (@VANDUpeople) July 14, 2021

"In British Columbia, we have a long-standing overdose crisis," Nyx told Newsweek. "That crisis is actually caused by the failure of the regime of prohibition. A hundred years after all these laws have been imposed, we noticed that there was the production of a very volatile drug market, where drugs have become very unpredictable.

"Folks who are using them have been dying in massive numbers, there's been 20,000 deaths in the last five years. When they go and buy drugs, they do not know what the contents of those drugs are," she added. "One day it could be 5 percent fentanyl, the next it could be mixed with PCP or ketamine. It's that volatility that's caused by this prohibitionist regime that the protest and these actions are criticizing...Our point is regulate the supply of drugs to prevent these overdoses that are occurring because the street supply is unpredictable."

DULF and VANDU, who according to Vancouver Is Awesome raised about $3,000 for the program, distributed tested supplies of heroin, meth and cocaine to four harm reduction groups.

"We're trying to prevent people from dying by taking these drugs," Nyx added. "We keep data on folks who get the drugs, they're all over 18 and already using drugs, and nobody has overdosed on our drugs. The problem is the volatility of the market is killing people. We're not against recovery, we just want people to stop dying and having chaotic patterns of substance use."

Calling the loss of life to drug overdose "totally unnecessary," Nyx shared with Newsweek that on the day of the protest and drug distribution the tone was kept "light" as the drugs were safely distributed.

The groups also invited Councillor Jean Swanson to partake in the drug distribution. Swanson tweeted about her involvement: "I got to hand out safe drugs today with VANDU And DULF. 6 deaths a day from poison drugs is way too many. 1 is too many. Safe supply now!!"

I got to hand out safe drugs today with VANDU And DULF. 6 deaths a day from poison drugs is way too many. 1 is too many. Safe supply now !!

— Jean Swanson (@JeanSwanson_) July 14, 2021

Swanson told Newsweek she was invited to participate by VANDU and DULF.

"They asked me if I would come and hand out free, safe drugs they have tested as a protest against the fact that we have in British Columbia, we have about six people a day dying from poison drugs," she said. "It's been a chronic health problem in our district for five years.

"Vancouver has a history of being at the forefront of drug policy. Thirty years ago, there was an illegal safe injection site set up, and it eventually became legal. We're kind of following in their footsteps," she added.

On Thursday, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to permanently provide access to a safe drug supply, in an effort to reduce overdose deaths, The Vancouver Sun reported. The government will reportedly offer drug replacement options as well as safely tested drugs.

However, for Nyx and Swanson, the program is not enough. DULF and VANDU have also publicly slammed the "Vancouver Model" of drug decriminalization, which they feel has a "lack of consideration of a safe drug supply and the police's outsized role in determining drug policy."

"Vancouver recently proposed this model of decriminalization that says you can possess small amounts of drugs. To us, that doesn't really solve this crisis, because at the core of it, it's the supply of the drugs," Nyx reflected to Newsweek. "You can't purchase drugs anywhere in a clean and safe and regulated fashion.

"Anytime you're doing illicit street drugs and they're not testing them and you don't know where you're getting them from, you're at risk of dying," she added. "Their program doesn't solve this problem, what they need to do is replicate the liquor distribution law with illicit narcotics. Not doing that is killing people."

"It'll be too bureaucratic for most people who really need it," Swanson added. "It also just deals with opioids, so it's going to miss a lot of people, and a lot of people will keep dying."

Newsweek reached out to the Vancouver Police Department for comment, and a representative noted they are "currently reviewing the circumstances" of the protest after "a number of concerned citizens...reached out." Newsweek also reached out to VANDU for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Free drugs given away outside police station
A group dedicated to promoting safe drug use and decriminalization held an event this week in which they reportedly distributed free drugs to active users. Above, a man uses heroin under a bridge where he lives with other addicts in Philadelphia, which has become a hub for heroin use. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Updated 07/16/2021, 5:29 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from the Vancouver Police Department.

Correction 7/17/2021, 11:15 AM ET. An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of DULF member Eris Nyx. We regret the error.