The man arrested for selling illicit street drugs from a mobile kiosk on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside says he’s gearing up for a constitutional challenge.
Vancouver police arrested Jerry Martin and impounded cash, drugs and the mobile trailer he was operating as “The Drugs Store” on Thursday, one day after he’d begun operations.
Speaking on CKNW’s The Jas Johal Show, Martin said despite losing his equipment and $15,000 in cash he’d do the same thing again, and hopes his case leads to some form of drug legalization.
“That’s the whole point of doing it, was to get arrested … so that we can do a constitutional challenge to try and legalize drugs,” he said.
Before he was arrested, Martin’s kiosk was selling cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and MDMA, which he said were tested for fentanyl at Get Your Drugs Tested, a harm reduction facility that Vancouver Coastal Health directs users to.
Martin said he was compelled to act when the province decriminalized possession of small quantities of certain hard drugs, but did not pair the move with wide access to a safe supply.
“They knew that if they didn’t provide a safe supply and let the entire province be allowed to have these drugs, it was just going to get them from the same tainted supply and it was going to be nothing but trouble,” he said.
“So they’ve left it up to people like me to step in and do that until they’ve decided they can do it.”
Martin said he doesn’t advocate for hard drugs to be treated the same as cannabis, adding he believes a clean supply should be provided by the government or through pharmacies.
But he said with the government providing few avenues to tested drugs and fatal overdoses skyrocketing, someone needed to force the issue, and that he was willing to be the one facing the legal risk.
“I think whether they (the general public) like hard drugs or not, I think they’d be happy if one of their family members went and got something that they actually were supposed to get instead of something fentanyl-laced that killed them,” he said.
“If drugs were legalized, we wouldn’t have the addiction problems. People would be treated as human beings; they’d be treated with a health problem, not a criminal problem. It destroys families. If they look at it from that angle, I think they’d change their minds pretty quick.”
At the time of the arrest, Vancouver police said they support measures aimed at public safety for people who use drugs, including harm reduction services and decriminalization.
“However, we remain committed in our position that drug trafficking will continue to be the subject of enforcement,” Const. Tania Visintin said in a media release.
Martin was released pending his next court appearance, and is subject to a court order that he stay out of the Downtown Eastside.
Court records suggest Martin has not been formally charged yet, and a timeline for his legal case was not immediately clear.
In the meantime, he is fundraising with the goal of mounting his Charter challenge.