Drug User Liberation Front loses B.C. health authority funding over illegal drug purchase

A Vancouver-based compassion club has lost its provincial funding after B.C. United MLAs slammed the government for giving taxpayer dollars to an organization that sells illicit drugs purchased on the dark web.

The Drug User Liberation Front has been buying cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine on the dark web, sending it to labs at the University of Victoria or University of British Columbia for safety testing, and then selling it to 43 compassion club members from a storefront in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.Article contentArticle content

The group had received $200,000 from Vancouver Coastal Health to assist with overdose prevention and drug checking. The health authority confirmed that contract is being cancelled on Oct. 31, following a request from Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside.

“That particular organization has had its contract cancelled. It’s had its lease cancelled by the health authority that provided that funding to them,” Premier David Eby said during an unrelated news conference Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate because they were providing essential life-saving work. But they were also breaking the law, which we will not tolerate.”

During question period on Tuesday, B.C. United MLA Mike de Jong said the Drug User Liberation Front is using cryptocurrency to buy drugs from organized crime sources online which amounts to “taxpayer-funded drug trafficking.”

The MLA for Abbotsford West demanded a forensic audit of “every penny” that went to the group and to the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, which has also handed out tested drugs.

Whiteside refused to tell reporters whether she knew that the Drug User Liberation Front was buying illegal drugs, despite those activities being widely publicized for more than a year.

Start your day with a roundup of B.C.-focused news and opinion.

By signing up you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc.Article contentArticle content

“We were aware that they were providing overdose prevention and harm-reduction services though the funding of Vancouver Coastal Health,” Whiteside told reporters.

When the ministry became aware of the illegal activity, the contract was cancelled, she said.

The group has said it did not use provincial money to buy drugs, instead relying on donations. An official for the compassion club did not respond to questions before deadline. Vancouver Coastal Health said there was no evidence its money was being used to buy drugs on the dark web.

The compassion club wrote on its website it has provided three kilograms worth of drugs to its members and there have been zero overdoses linked to those drugs. DULF said by providing those drugs at cost, it prevented $100,000 worth of profit from going into the hands of organized criminal gangs.

Last year, Health Canada rejected a request from the Drug User Liberation Front and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users asking for a temporary Criminal Code exemption to be able to buy and distribute drugs.

The Drug User Liberation Front continued to distribute drugs despite that rejection and told Postmedia at the time that Health Canada’s decision shows a lack of appreciation “that the toxic drug crisis is taking a current and devastating toll on public health and public safety” and that there are no legal sources to replace illicit street drugs.

The toxic drug crisis has killed 1,629 people in the first eight months of 2023. While the government has stressed that its “safer supply” program — which provides prescribed opioids like hydromorphone as an alternative to street drugs — is saving lives, B.C. United MLAs have suggested these opioids could be diverted and sold at rock-bottom prices to youth, creating new addicts and causing deaths.

What do you think?

39 points
Upvote Downvote

‘Dark web’ drug deals

2 arrested in Vancouver police crackdown on unsanctioned safe drug supply program