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Vancouver police arrest two people associated with drug-advocacy group that hands out free illicit drugs

Two people have been arrested.
Inspector Phil Heard, commanding officer of VPD’s Organized Crime Section, discusses the arrest of two people from the Drug Users Liberation Front, which happened Oct. 25, 2023.

A drug advocacy group known for distributing free drugs to users is the target of a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) investigation.

The VPD announced Thursday (Oct. 26) that as part of an ongoing investigation into the Drug Users Liberation Front (DULF) it executed search warrants on Oct. 25 at three locations: DULF headquarters and two East Vancouver homes.

Two people have been arrested, VPD Insp. Phil Heard told media at a press conference. However, he did not say who they were, only that they were "associated" with DULF.

At the same time police seized what is believed to be heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Heard said police were still measuring how much was taken.

“While DULF’s actions were intended to reduce the harms caused by toxic drugs, we have always warned that anyone who violates the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could face enforcement and criminal charges," states Heard.

"This group has knowingly operated illegally in the Downtown Eastside and we have now taken action to stop it.”

He notes DULF has been known to the VPD for a while.

The investigation into DULF started in September, when police learned how often the organization was distributing heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. On DULF's website it notes it's providing drugs that have been tested weekly to members of its Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine Compassion Club, providing them with a safe supply.

Heard notes the police support the idea of safe supply, but that it has to be done legally. When asked by media about where the people who were relying on DULF are to go now, Heard suggested they "seek resources in the community."

Charges have not been recommended to Crown counsel, Heard notes, as investigators continue to work on the case. Both people have been released.

Who is DULF?

DULF has openly distributed illegal substances for some time now, including outside of the VPD head offices on Cambie Street. Until the arrests on Oct. 25 no one had been arrested for working for or with DULF.

The drugs are distributed as part of DULF's compassion club, which enrolls people who use drugs as members and then distributes up to 14 grams of a substance to them per week, according to the group's website.

All of DULF's substances are tested and the group says it believes providing a safe supply is essential to improving the ongoing health crisis.

Previously the group has asked the government to better regulate the illicit drug market, specifically requesting "that they either act to regulate the drug supply or get out of our way."

According to DULF's data, no one who is part of their program has overdosed using the drugs they've provided.

They also have claimed DULF has stopped $100,000 from going to gangs in BC by providing the drugs themselves.

DULF has worked with a variety of other organizations as well, and is a contractor with Vancouver Coastal Health providing overdose prevention training, harm reduction help, and drug checking. At the direction of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Jennifer Whiteside, that $200,000 per year contract is ending Oct. 31.

This story has been updated with details from a police press conference

With files from Elana Shpert