Police arrest man for opening store selling hard drugs in Canada
A Canadian man was arrested in British Columbia after opening a mobile store to sell heroin, cocaine, and other hard drugs.
Jerry Martin, 51 years old, said he would challenge his arrest in court on the grounds that contaminated drugs cause harm.
Vancouver Police said they arrested a man on suspicion of “drug trafficking connected with an illicit drugs dispensary”, but did not file formal charges.
The arrest on Thursday came one day after Mr. Martin opened his shop.
He started selling the drugs Wednesday from a mobile trailer that was parked in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This is a neighborhood where drug abuse and overdose prevention are prevalent.
Mr. Martin, whose brother died from an overdose, has said he had planned to open his store after Health Canada decriminalized the possession of small quantities of hard drugs in the province of British Columbia (BC) early this year as part of a three-year pilot project.
The measure was introduced as a public health response to the increasing number of deaths due to overdoses from drugs laced with fentanyl in Western Canada.
In 2022, over 2,720 people will have died in BC from an opioid overdose – that’s seven people per day on average.
BC has the second-highest rate of overdose deaths in Canada.
Mr. Martin told local news outlets that he planned to sell batches of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and crack in small quantities, up to 2.5 grams, in an attempt to prevent further deaths. He said the drugs had been tested to ensure they did not contain fentanyl.
In a statement, Constable Tania Visintin said Vancouver police “support measures aimed at improving public safety for people who use drugs, including harm reduction services and decriminalization” but said police would continue enforcement on drug trafficking.
The CBC reported that dozens had lined up at the entrance of Mr. Martin’s mobile store to buy drugs on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Martin was unnamed in the police press release announcing the arrest but it was widely reported in Canadian media.
He is out of police custody pending a court hearing, police said. He has also been asked to stay away from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
BC has often been at the forefront of enacting harm reduction measures to prevent drug overdoses.
The Downtown Eastside is home to the first legal supervised drug consumption site in North America, where people could bring their own substances to use in the presence of trained staff who can quickly respond in the event of an overdose.
Since Insite opened in 2003, dozens of similar legal sites have opened across the US and Canada.
The overall number of fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths in Canada has sharply risen since 2016, increasing by more than 150% compared to 2022.