Skip to content

‘The law needs to be changed’: Nelson group rallies in support of safe drug supply

Rally supports Vancouver group in court for openly selling tested drugs
A group of about 10 people stood outside Nelson City Hall on Jan. 16 to coincide with the court date of two Vancouver residents who were arrested in October for selling tested drugs. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

A small group of people braved minus-10 weather on Tuesday to stand outside Nelson City Hall in solidarity with the founders of the Drug User Liberation Front who appeared in court the same day in Vancouver.

Jeremy Kalicum and Eris Nyx were arrested for drug trafficking in October when they sold illegal drugs from their Vancouver office. The drugs had been safety-tested but were not medically prescribed.

Dylan Griffith, the organizer of the Nelson event, said the two Vancouverites were saving lives but were breaking the law to do it.

“When the law is impeding that kind of prevention of death, the law needs to be changed,” he said.

The purpose of the Nelson event, Griffith said, was also to remind people that the concept of safe supply as an answer to toxic drug deaths has been supported by B.C. Public Health Officer Bonnie Henry and Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe, but the barrier to implementation is “a lack of government will and the lack of political courage.”

This is a Nelson issue, Griffith said, because Nelson has a rate of toxic death that is three times the provincial average.

“So this crisis is impacting this community very, very, very severely.”

As of August 2023, more people had already died in Nelson due to illicit toxic drugs than any previous year.

Data released on Sept. 25 by the BC Coroners Service shows 13 people had died in the Nelson local health area, which includes Salmo and parts of the Slocan Valley, as of the end of August. That tops the record of 11 deaths in all of 2022.

On Aug. 16, the BC Coroners Service announced at least 1,095 people in the province had died due to the toxic drug supply between January and June this year.

In May, a new inhalation site planned for the Interior Health-owned Nelson Friendship Outreach Clubhouse at 818 Vernon St. was delayed because of opposition from neighbouring businesses and residents who said the location was inappropriate and unsafe. Since then the City of Nelson and Interior Health have declared their intention to find an alternative site, but none has been announced so far.

Griffith said his organization, Kootenay Insurrection for Safe Supply, ran a safe supply project in Nelson in 2022 as part of a compassion club not sanctioned by government.

They distributed heroin and methamphetamine that was free of fentanyl to a group of 20 pre-selected participants in the community.

“We want to see a safe supply, which means a supply that’s tested and it’s a known potency and composition so that people who are using drugs can make the choice to use drugs that they know aren’t going to kill them,” Griffith told the Nelson Star at the time.

“Unfortunately,’ he said at the Jan. 16 rally, “when DULF got shut down, we also had the funding for our study cut and we were under threat of being arrested. So we also shut down our program.”

Depending on the results of the Vancouver court appearance, Griffith said, the next step could be a challenge under the Charter of Rights.

“We’re looking at challenging the constitutionality of the trafficking sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as they apply to compassion clubs in the context of a declared public health emergency.”

ANKORS at 101 Baker St. provides free, anonymous drug-checking services. They also offer naloxone kits and training, as well as referrals and support. Contact ANKORS at 250-505-5506 or email them at Support for addictions can be found at the Mental Health and Substance Use office at 333 Victoria St. Call 250-310-6478 to connect to your local office.


Nelson sets new drug death record only 8 months into 2023

Breaking the law to provide safe drugs? Nelson advocate says it should be considered

Marchers rally in Vancouver to support Drug User Liberation Front

Friends, family honour those lost to drug poisoning at Nelson event

Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
Read more