Activists in Vancouver Gave Out Free Cocaine to Highlight Overdose Crisis

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In response to British Columbia’s record-high 170 fatal overdoses last month, a group of drug reform activists handed out free doses of fentanyl-free cocaine and opium Tuesday afternoon in Vancouver.

The newly-formed Drug User Liberation Front marched in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—considered Canada’s poorest neighbourhood—as it issued a list of demands to the province and gave out small vials of cocaine and opium, which had been tested for fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, benzodiazepines, and other adulterants.

The group’s calls for action include expanding the access to prescription narcotics in the province, providing a safe supply of cocaine and injectable heroin, covering injectable hydromorphone under B.C.’s prescription drugs plan, decriminalizing simple possession of drugs, and defunding Vancouver police while reallocating funds to community organizations.

VICE News has reached out to B.C.’s Ministry of Health for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

“Either they step up and actually have some actions or they just get the fuck out of the way and we’ll do it,” said Hawkfeather Peterson, a drug consumer and advocate who helped put on the event. “It’s our right not to die.”

The Drug User Liberation Front is comprised of members of harm reduction groups such as the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and the B.C. and Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors.

Erica Thomson, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, said the energy at Tuesday’s event was “infectious.”

“When I get around our community and we’re doing stuff like this, I get jacked right up,” she said.

The march took place as B.C. faced its deadliest month for drug overdose deaths since the opioid overdose crisis started; more than 550 people have died of an overdose in the province in 2020. More than 5,000 people have died of overdoses in the Canadian province since 2016, when it was declared a public health emergency.