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Legalization advocate opens new drug testing site in Vancouver

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A new drug testing site has opened in Vancouver, the second launched by legalization activist Dana Larsen.

The Get Your Drugs Tested service on West Broadway offers testing for free. Larsen says the new site is legally approved to operate by Vancouver Coastal Health.

“We’ll test anything people bring in, any kind of substance. That can be anything from heroin, cocaine to other substances. We test psychedelics like MDMA, any street drug or pill, we can analyze it and give you a very good idea of what’s in there and make an informed decision on what you’re taking,” said Larsen at the grand opening event.

New toxic drug alerts warning of laced supply are issued by B.C. health authorities frequently. 

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions says there are 90 drug-checking services across B.C., and that “46 of these offer immediate point-of-care testing with FTIR spectrometer on some days of the week.”

“Lifesaving supports such as drug checking, overdose prevention services, and providing harm reduction supplies keep people alive so they can access health care and treatment,” reads a statement from the ministry. “People need to be alive to get help. Drug checking is a harm reduction service aimed at keeping people alive - to help reduce the risk of overdose or poisoning from the toxic street drugs being pushed on people by organized crime.”

More than 2,089 people have lost their lives to lethal overdoses in the first 10 months of 2023, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

“The toxic drug crisis is taking too many lives, and it’s hurting people and communities,” adds the ministry.

Critics argue the province isn’t doing enough.

“It’s a failure,” said BC United Mental Health critic Elenore Sturko. “I want to be able to also see individuals receive drug testing. I want lives to be saved, but I think we should not be reliant on individuals and businesses, that this an obligation of the government and they should fulfill that obligation.”

“I think we should be having these kind of services in every city and town across British Columbia, and it’s really a shame that our health authorities haven’t done that, so we’re doing our best to fill the gap,” said Larsen.

The ministry says since 2018, more than 90,000 drug samples have been tested in B.C.

Larsen says his initial testing site on East Hastings has tested nearly 60,000 samples since it opened in 2019, adding he doesn’t receive any funding from the province; he uses revenue from his cannabis and mushroom dispensaries to pay for the testing sites.

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