The founders of a Vancouver-based group fighting for a safe supply of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine have launched a petition to the federal government.
Launched by the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF), the Change.org petition calls on the Canadian government to approve an exemption for a compassion club model to supply safer drugs to people who use drugs. The exemption is endorsed by Vancouver City Council, which unanimously approved the motion in September.
The petition is also launched on behalf of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), another Downtown Eastside-based group that advocates for a solution to the drug toxicity crisis.
"The DULF Compassion Club is an innovative project that aims to reduce overdose-related deaths by introducing regulation into the illicit drug market and providing a consistent supply of substances that are [labelled] with the contents and potency," explains the petition.
DULF and VANDU have also submitted a Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) application to procure funding for a compassion club pilot called the DULF Fulfillment Centre and Compassion Club Pilot.
To date, DULF says it has handed out over 100 grams of drugs that were tested via "FTIR spectrometry and immunoassay" to ensure they are free from "fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, benzodiazepines, and other harmful adulterants." According to the group's internal data, there have been zero overdoses, "fatal or otherwise," from people using its tested supply.
"Our project has high potential to demonstrate that the current rate of drug overdose death can be substantially reduced by providing compassion club members direct access to heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine—all with predictable and [labelled] content," reads the SUAP application.
DULF is asking for $268,947 from Health Canada for a 15-month pilot, as well as additional in-kind support provided by Dr. Thomas Kerr, Division of Social Medicine, UBC. There will also be a donated amount of $145,000.
DULF and VANDU are asking Health Canada, the Federal Minister of Health, and other parties to grant the exemption request and approve the SUAP application.
"This would be a clear indicator that a response to the overdose crisis is being taken seriously and that the Canadian government cares about the lives and futures of people who use drugs, and that honour their Charter rights to life, liberty, security, and equality," states the petition.
As of this writing, nearly 900 people have signed the petition.
Heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine compassion clubs in Vancouver
DULF co-founder Jeremy Kalicum told Vancouver Is Awesome in a previous interview that the organization wants to obtain drugs legally but hasn't been able to without the exemption from the federal government.
Fair Price Pharma, a Canadian non-profit pharma company, can supply DULF with injectable pharmaceutical heroin. The company is led by Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s first medical health officer, who has been corresponding with the organization regularly.
For now, Fair Price Pharma can only supply heroin. Kalicum said that there are other companies that supply cocaine but DULF hasn't reached out to them yet.
Over the past year, DULF has distributed drugs at events aimed at demonstrating the life-saving potential of legalizing drugs.
In the past 25 years, more than 12,632 British Columbians have died of illicit drug overdoses. That’s equal to the population of the city of Terrace.
Since the 2016 emergency declaration, some 7,000 have died.
By January, an average of 5.3 people were dying daily.
B.C.'s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said overdose is the fourth highest cause of death in the province with the average age of death being 43.
With files from Jeremy Hainsworth