Stimulus Connect 9: Harm Reduction & Drug Selling

February 8, 2021

Illegal drug markets provide drugs that governments and regulatory bodies prohibit access to. The current drug laws perpetuate harm through the failed “war on drugs”. Historically in Canada, societal responses to people who sell drugs include demonizing those engaged in selling while calling for increased levels of law enforcement, criminalization and punishment as a way of trying to prevent selling and using from taking place, which further feeds the drug war rhetoric.

People who sell illegal drugs play a pivotal part in our society. This necessary service provides access to a wide range of essential drugs that many Canadians need to survive and thrive. Additionally, people who sell drugs play an important role in drug cultures, in communities and oftentimes are people who use drugs. Their work is varied, and some sellers contribute to harm reduction efforts through their role within the illegal drug market.

Most Canadian harm reduction organizations seek to reach people who use drugs who are at risk of STBBIs and overdose. These organizations occasionally engage people who sell drugs working to increase the reach of harm reduction education, drug market alerts, drug testing opportunities, and harm reduction supply distribution.

This #StimulusConnect considers: What are some harm reduction strategies that people who sell drugs implement? What is their role in reducing risks associated with drug use? What are the experiences of people who use drugs? The crucial role of people who sell drugs is rarely discussed. Please join us as we Connect.


  1. Journal Article: “I couldn’t live with killing one of my friends or anybody”: A rapid ethnographic study of drug sellers’ use of drug checking; January 2021
  2. Journal Article: Practices of care among people who buy, use, and sell drugs in community settings; May 7, 2020
  3.  Journal Article: Trusting the source: The potential role of drug dealers in reducing drug-related harms via drug checking; May 1, 2019
  4. News: Some Dealers Are Checking Their Drugs to Keep Clients Alive; November 12, 2020
  5. News: Why Drug Dealers Are an Under-Utilized Anti-Overdose Resource; May 28, 2019

International Resources

  1. Resources from the Drug Policy Alliance
  2. Videos from the Drug Policy Alliance
  3. Filter: Leaked FBI Report: Drug Sellers Practice Harm Reduction; December 2, 2020
  4. Filter: “Here to Make It Less Dangerous”—The Work of a Dark-Web Drug Seller; November 12, 2020
  5. Filter: How Should Drug Policy Reform Engage “Dealers”?; December 17, 2019
  6. Article: Consider the Dealer: Supplying Drugs And Harm Reduction In The UK; December 8, 2020
  7. Article: It’s time to admit it: Drug dealers should be considered essential workers; May 18, 2020
  8. Journal Article: Illicit drug prices and quantity discounts: A comparison between a cryptomarket, social media, and police data; October 9, 2020
  9. Journal Article: The protective effect of trusted dealers against opioid overdose in the U.S;  April 2020