A small white box sits on a plastic folding table. Inside the nondescript package are two bags, one with heroin and one with cocaine.
The illicit drugs were purchased on the dark web by Jeremy Kalicum and Eris Nyx. Together, they founded the Drug User Liberation Front, or DULF as it’s more commonly known.
“DULF is a direct response to Canadian drug policy failures and the massive numbers of overdose deaths we have seen in British Columbia in the last six years now,” Nyx said as she placed another box on the table, this one containing crystal methamphetamine.
According to the B.C Coroner Service, six people are dying everyday from toxic illicit drugs, with 2021 beingthe deadliest year on record in the province as there were 2,224 deaths.
“People are dying,” said Kalicum in a firm and urgent tone. “We need to stop the death and that is our priority.”
To help save lives, DULF provides small quantities of tested illegal substances to pre-approved drug users.
“We formed as a consumer protection initiative that’s designed to protect people who use drugs. We formed to provide people with a predictable supply of whatever substance they choose to use. We believe this, and have shown thatit will reduce the rates of overdose death in our community,” said Nyx.
(Eris Nyx and Jeremy Kalicum weigh, bag and package cocaine purchased from the dark web)
The pair believes offering a clean supply is a viable solution to toxic street drugs.
Kalicum, who is 26years old and working on his masters degree in public health, describes that supply as being “accessible, reliable and safe” when it comes to potency.
Drug users, doctors, harm reduction advocates, and even Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, have all called for safer alternatives to unregulated and highly toxic street drugs.
“We’re not encouraging everyone to go out and do drugs.What we are saying is if you choose to use drugs, much like if you choose to drink, you should not have to be gambling with your life,” said Nyx
Health Canada defines safer supply as “providing prescribed medications as a safer alternative to the illegal drug supply to people who are at high risk of overdose.”
In B.C, there are some federally-approved programs involving prescriptions and doctors, but their scope is limited and they are not widely available.
“I live in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, so when I go outside, they’re dead people everywhere, it’s horrible,” said Nyx.
A self-described multidisciplinary artist and musician, Nyx has a long history with drug use. The 31-year old has not only used substances, but worked for years on the front lines of the deadly crisis in varying advocacy roles.
“It was the exposure to death that causes you to do radical things.”
A bold approach is exactly what Nyx and Kalicum have been taking ever since meeting at a safe supply conference back in 2019.
Since then, the pair havebeen fundraising to buy illegal substances such as cocaine.
All donations are turned into cryptocurrency, particularly one called Monero which is private, decentralized and supposedly untraceable.
“We both sell merchandise and crowdsource funds and right now our budget is about $35,000 per year in funding,” said Nyx,who is also responsible for ordering the drugs from the dark web.
(Eris Nyx surfs the dark web and orders illegal drugs from Canadian vendors)
On her computer, she expertly navigates a hidden collective of internet sites only accessible by a specialized web browser.
She also always uses Canadian vendors and is careful to never source product from international sellers.
“Once the drugs have been ordered, we receive them through the mail,” explained Nyx.”Our money stays in escrow until we get the product and are satisfied with it.”
With his background in chemistry and biology, Kalicum is responsible for testing the drugs for any trace of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, or its extremely potent derivative carfentanyl.
Some of the technology used includes Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) which can provide a quantitative analysis of a substance.
“We are able to access several different testing technologies to ensure the safety and purity of the drugs.”
(A note detailing DULF’s testing technologies is displayed before being added to a small box containing heroin)
When the drugs are deemed safe, theyare divided and packaged in small boxes that contain explicit health warnings similar to that of legal cannabis ortobacco.
According to Nyx, the labelling is important because DULF wants people to know “precisely what is in each box” so they can make an informed substance-use decision.
As for who gets DULF’s drugs, Kalicum says only adult members of established user group, such as the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), can access the product which is given away for free.
“No one has overdosed on any of the substances we’ve given out. Not on any of the heroin, the methamphetamine or any of the cocaine because it is tested and they know how potent it is,”
While the drugs are not given out on a daily basis, and are often only distributed at safe supply rallies, the pair know what they’re doing is illegal and could land them in jail.
“We have submitted a very well researched request to the federal government asking for exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to continue to act as a consumer protection initiative,” said Nyx.
DULF wants to create a safe supply fulfillment centre that would follow a compassion club model,where drugs are purchased from approved pharmaceutical companies and safely distributed to the public.
To do that, the organization needs Ottawa to grant them an exemption, something they applied for last August.
“We want to be able to buy in a regulated way, but without the exemption, we are forced to buy from the black market which is something we really don’t want to do,” said Kalicum.
When asked by CTV News to provide an update on the status of DULF’s application, Health Canada said it is not in the practice of commenting on requests under review.
“Each s.56 exemption request under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) is carefully and thoroughly reviewed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant considerations, including evidence of benefits and risks or harms to the health and safety of Canadians.”
For Kalicum and Nyx, the lack of information and action from Ottawa is disappointing, but not a deterrence.
“The one thing we know is if people get drugs that are labelled, that have predictable content, and they know precisely what they are taking, then they will not die,” said Nyx while opening another box filled with illicit drugs.
While she begins packaging product, Kalicum reaches over and begins measuring out the contents of a pouchthat’s filled with meth. Like every other bag they buy, it will be thoroughly tested and only distributed when it is deemed safe for consumption.
This is the way DULF, and its two founders,hope to save lives, by offering their own version of safe supply.
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