Safe Supply; A Year Post-Enactment

Months after drug activist Jerry Martin’s death, the Safe Supply act remains.

Avery Nowicki // Communities Editor


It has been nearly one year since the enactment of British Columbia’s decriminalization act, which provides a legal exemption for possession of small amounts of illicit substances for personal use. The act was enabled on January 31st, 2023, and will continue until January 31st, 2026. After a year, a series of events in response to the act have arisen, including the rise of ‘The Drugs Store’, a business started by local Vancouver drug activist, Jerry Martin. The Courier discussed Jerry Martin and his mission in the February 2023 issue of the magazine, which can be found (For print —through our website, titled The Drug Store) (For Web – at After a year of work to create his controversial business, Jerry Martin passed away of a suspected fentanyl overdose, at age 51 in June 2023. Martin opened ‘The Drugs Store’ in May of 2023, becoming the first store in North America to openly sell drugs, which have been safely tested to ensure drugs are fentanyl free in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. His partner Krista Thomas, shared with CTV, that his mental health began to decline following his initial arrest after ‘‘The Drug Store”’s grand opening. Following the arrest, Martin’s vehicle, and passport had been taken away, in combination with a tightening of his finances due to the expenses from the store’s creation. Police had found Martin unresponsive, reporting to Thomas that he had suffered brain damage and was put in a medically-induced coma. When it became clear Martin would not regain the majority of his brain and motor functions, he was taken off life support. 

Thomas shared “He wanted to live for what he did, for the work that he did. And if he couldn’t do that in some form, I know that he wouldn’t want to be here,” she said. “We decided that we would remove the machines and let him pass away peacefully.”

Martin was a former drug addict of 15 years, who had lost his brother to overdose, which became his original ignition to begin this project. 

Martin remained concerned about B.C.’s decriminalization act up to his death. He believed that to decriminalize hard drugs without safe supply would result in a rise in overdose deaths. Martin sold the previously-decriminalized drugs at the allowed quantity of 2.5 grams, despite the fact that selling them was illegal. 

Martin’s lawyer, Paul Lewin, aimed to launch a constitutional challenge that would change the law around sales of safe supply. In a discussion with CTV news, Lewin stated that legalizing sale may be possible under Section 7 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Lewin had told CTV news that this would corroborate with the sections stance to enrich the right of life, liberty, and security of the person and stated that the government could not pass laws which infringed on those rights arbitrarily. Lewin specializes in Legal Counsel for the Canadian cannabis industry, working with cases surrounding legislative action for cannabis and psychedelics. His background originates in criminal defense law.  

In the months since his death, Jerry Martin’s passing has turned from a place of grief, to an aim for constitutional challenge, with more lawyers expressing deep interest in Martin’s case for a legality to sell within the decriminalization act. A legislative change which would be monumental in the ways Vancouver handles their drug crises. 


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