British Columbia has begun decriminalizing up to 2.5 grams of some drugs — but unfortunately for Jerry Martin and the Drugs Store, it's still illegal to sell them.
A curious business appeared in downtown Vancouver, Canada, last week. Called the “Drugs Store,” it offered Canadians a supply of cocaine, heroin, meth, and other drugs. Its owner, Jerry Martin, was promptly arrested, but he hopes that the shop’s legacy will last longer than the store.
“Providing a safe, clean supply is going to hopefully stop a lot of the overdoses and a lot of the injuries and stop girls from having to do certain things just to get their drugs,” Martin said according to CBC.
As Vice reports, Martin first sought to open the store to combat the frightening rise of drug overdoses in Canada. His drugs are tested and free of contaminants, including fentanyl, making them safer to consume.
Though possession of up to 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA has been decriminalized as part of a pilot program for British Columbians age 18 and older, Martin argues that people are still getting an unsafe and contaminated supply.
“People are dying,” Martin pointed out to Vice, who reported that 11,000 British Columbians have died of a drug overdose since 2016. “Especially now, they’ve allowed the entire province to do these drugs… But they’ve provided no clean, safe supply. They’re getting it from the same supply that everybody’s overdosing from.”
For Martin, the battle is personal. West Coast Standard reports that he developed a drug and alcohol addiction after an adult stranger put a needle in his arm at the age of just 14. For Martin, that began a decades-long struggle with addiction and homelessness.
In recent years, Martin has also suffered from personal tragedy related to drugs. His older brother was killed in a drug-related stabbing in 2000, and Martin’s stepbrother died of a drug overdose last year.
“That’s the main reason I stepped forward — that was a few months ago when I found him under a bridge in Mission,” Martin told the West Coast Standard.
Thus, Vice reports that Martin set out to establish his store, which he hoped could provide users with a safe supply of drugs.
“Both the government and the police have called for safe supply, and nobody’s going to be filling that role for at least five years,” Martin explained to the West Coast Standard, “and so I’m going to come in and do this just like we did with the cannabis dispensaries which all opened up under a grey area for years before weed legalization.”
Vice reports that Martin had difficulty finding a storefront and eventually settled on a mobile business. From the beginning, he was prepared to be arrested. His lawyer prepared an argument in advance, writing to Martin’s potential landlords and business partners: “He would allege that laws that prevent a safe supply and result in death by poisoning contravene section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and must be struck down.”
Indeed, Martin was arrested just one day after he opened his business. The Vancouver police said in a statement that while they support “improving public safety for people who use drugs… drug trafficking will continue to be the subject of enforcement.”
Martin has been released from custody pending his court appearance, and the police have seized his vehicles, body armor, and cash. But he’s hopeful that his brief foray into selling safe drugs on the streets of Vancouver can make a difference, especially in attitudes toward homelessness in Canada.
“People walk down the street looking at these people with disgust, like they’re not human,” Martin told the West Cost Standard. “Not deserving to be a part of their society. They’re a Canadian just like anybody else, and I think they need more help than anybody.”
After reading about the Canadian man who was arrested after opening a mobile store selling illegal drugs in Vancouver, look through these 33 photos of the crack epidemic. Or, read about how doctors once prescribed heroin, cocaine, and other drugs as “miracle cures.”