He opens a hard drug store and is arrested: the unusual protest of a man who lost his brother to an overdose in Canada | International

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Jerry Martin's makeshift hard drug stand in Vancouver.JENNIFER GAUTHIER (REUTERS)

Jerry Martin's business adventure has lasted just 24 hours, but he hopes his gesture will have an impact on the laws of his country. Martin, 51, opened a mobile hard drug store on Wednesday in the Downtown Eastside, a Vancouver neighborhood hard hit by Canada's wave of overdoses. On Thursday, the police in this city in the province of British Columbia announced his arrest. The establishment offered its clients heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA.

Health Canada launched a three-year pilot project on January 31 to decriminalize the possession of various hard drugs in British Columbia, the first initiative of its kind in the country. The authorities allow a maximum of 2.5 grams of substances to adults. The measure is part of the strategy to reduce overdose deaths. In 2022 alone, this Canadian province had 2,720 such deaths.

Regarding the arrest of Jerry Martin, Vancouver police said in a statement: "We support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs, but selling or trafficking remains illegal and we remain committed to law enforcement." Martin has been released while a court hearing date is set. He is also banned from the Downtown Eastside.

In his mobile store, Jerry Martin sold small bags of drugs whose weight - as the project in British Columbia establishes - did not exceed 2.5 grams. In addition, these drugs had been tested to rule out the presence of fentanyl, the main cause of the wave of overdose. In an interview with Global News, Martin said that his initiative seeks to open a reflection on a safer drug supply. “People don't even know what they're consuming,” he noted.

Jerry Martin has indicated that his arrest - also part of his plan - was intended to launch a serious debate, and at a national level, regarding safe and legal access to these substances. For him, the current legislation favors a supply chain with disastrous consequences. He also maintained that he planned to use the proceeds from his store for an awareness campaign. Martin suffered from drug addiction problems and lost a brother to an overdose.

Some Canadian doctors are licensed to prescribe diacetylmophrine (pharmaceutical grade heroin) to addicts. However, federal authorities have indicated that the over-the-counter sale of hard drugs is not on the table. In early March, the company Adastra Labs announced that it had obtained permits to produce, sell and distribute cocaine in British Columbia. Health Canada was quick to specify that the company had been authorized to do so for scientific and research purposes only. Adastra Labs had to rectify the information.

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