A Vancouver man says he's prepared to go to jail for opening a store that sells illicit substances — but he says it's a necessary step to provide people who use drugs with access to a safe supply.
"People are dropping like flies. Somebody has got to do it," explains Jerry Martin, who tells V.I.A. that his brother passed away a few months ago from a drug overdose.
"I found him under a bridge, and, you know, it's just not the way to go. And then my other brother was murdered a couple of decades ago in the drug trade."
Martin, who has been sober for the better part of 15 years, says he spent about eight years on the street on the Downtown Eastside and knows how dangerous life can be for people who use drugs.
"There's a lot of predators out there. They're making women and other people do things that they don't want to do, whether they've got the money or not...you've got to meet them in an alley," he said.
"You can get robbed in a very uncomfortable, unsafe situation all the way around."
DTES Vancouver store to sell safe supply of several illicit substances
The Drugs Store is slated to open by the end of January when decriminalization of small amounts of illicit substances comes into effect in B.C. Martin hasn't found a permanent location for the store yet but will operate it as a mobile store out of his 26-foot camper trailer for now.
Once the brick-and-mortar location is up and running, he plans to also offer a delivery service so that people do not have to visit the DTES to pick up their drugs.
The store will operate like a cannabis dispensary and sell clean heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine that have been tested to ensure they are free from harmful cuts, such as fentanyl, as well as buffs and adulterants; the test results will be on display, too.
Customers must be over 18 and will be vetted to ensure that this isn't their first time using drugs and that they understand the risks involved with taking them.
There will also be information on detox and rehabilitation facilities as well as mental health resources, he said.
Martin could face jail time for operating the store, but he says the current laws do "more harm than good."
"If I lose, I will probably do a few years...that's the way it is," he said.
"But I think a couple of years out of my life to change a whole bunch of people's [lives] — I think that's worth it."