Episode 34: The Iron Law

Drug decriminalization is coming to British Columbia. And that’s a big step forward.

Our movement has been fighting for decriminalization for decades. To us, decriminalization means getting cops, courts and jails out of our lives. It means police stop harassing, arresting and seizing dope off of us.

For the past year, VANDU sent Garth and others to sit on a government committee and fight for this vision. Unsurprisingly, much of our advice was disregarded.

But the cops fought for low thresholds — and won. That means that a big proportion of drug users in BC will remain criminalized.

Cops and politicians have also made noise about ramping up enforcement on dealers. On today’s show, I talk to Leo Beletsky about why this is a bad idea that could make the overdose crisis even worse.

Further Reading

  • Beletsky, Leo, and Corey S Davis. “Today’s fentanyl crisis: Prohibition’s Iron Law, revisited.” The International journal on drug policy vol. 46: 156-159, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.05.050

  • Harris, Magdalena et al. “”It’s Russian roulette”: adulteration, adverse effects and drug use transitions during the 2010/2011 United Kingdom heroin shortage.” The International journal on drug policy vol. 26,1: 51-8, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.09.009

  • Ivsins, Andrew et al. “Tackling the overdose crisis: The role of safe supply.” The International journal on drug policy vol. 80: 102769, 2020. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102769

  • Peterson, Meghan et al. “”One guy goes to jail, two people are ready to take his spot”: Perspectives on drug-induced homicide laws among incarcerated individuals.” The International journal on drug policy vol. 70: 47-53, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.05.001

Rest in Peace

I’d like to acknowledge the loss of two amazing community leaders this month.

Kat Norris was a comrade and fighter from Lyackson First Nation. I got to know Kat when community groups banded together to fight the extra policing and gentrification that came with Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics. Kat’s been sticking up for people in East Vancouver since the late 1970s and was famous for her fry bread giveaways.

We’d also like to say goodbye to Chrissy Brett. Chrissy was from the Nuxalk Nation (New-hulk). She organized and acted as a spokesperson and defender for many tent encampments in Victoria and Vancouver, including at Oppenheimer Park.



Crackdown is produced on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territories.

Our editorial board is: Samona Marsh, Shelda Kastor, Jeff Louden, Dean Wilson, Laura Shaver, Reija Jean. And rest in peace, Dave Murray, Greg Fresz and Chereece Keewatin.

This episode was conceptualized, written, and produced by Sam Fenn,

Alexander Kim, Alex De Boer, Lisa Hale, Jade Boyd, and me, Garth Mullins.

Sound design by Alexander Kim. Original score was written and performed by James Ash, Sam Fenn, and Garth Mullins.

Special thanks to Professor Magdalena Harris for her time and research on the UK heroin shortage.

If you like what we do, please consider donating at patreon.com/crackdownpod.

Crackdown is funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Stay safe and keep six.