Canada to decriminalize certain drugs in BC for three years

Canada to decriminalize cocaine and MDMA for three years amid an overdose crisis: Move aims to encourage drug addicts to seek help and free up police time

  • British Colombia is set to decriminalize possession of up to 2.5 grams opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA starting January 31, 2023
  • While the newest policy does not legalize the substances, for three years drug users 18 and over caught with the substances will not be arrested and charged
  • The exemption would not apply to airports, schools and members of the Canadian military
  • The policy comes after British Columbia has become the epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis
  • Since 2016 there have been over 9,400 deaths due to toxic illicit drugs in British Columbia and a record 2,224 last year

Following the rise of opioid deaths since the pandemic, Canada has moved to decriminalize small-scale possession of certain illicit drugs- including cocaine and MDMA- in British Columbia for three years. 

On Tuesday Canada’s government announced it will allow the province of British Colombia to decriminalize possession of up to 2.5 grams opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy, starting January 31, 2023. 

The allowable amount of illegal substances falls short of the 4.5 grams requested by British Columbia, and was already deemed too low a threshold by some drug-user groups that have criticized the province for failing to adequately consult them. 

The province’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, (left) said that with the policy, ‘we are taking an important step forward to removing that fear and shame and stigma’

Since 2016 there have been over 9,400 deaths due to toxic illicit drugs in British Columbia and a record 2,224 last year

While the newest policy does not legalize the substances, for three years after the policy is enacted drug users 18 and over caught with the substances will not be arrested and charged. 

The exemption would not apply to airports, schools and members of the Canadian military. 

The policy comes after British Columbia has become the epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis. 

Since 2016 there have been over 9,400 deaths due to toxic illicit drugs in British Columbia and a record 2,224 last year. 

Sheila Malcolmson, British Columbia’s minister of mental health, said the coroner in British Columbia reports that between five and seven people die a day in the province from overdoses and that half of those happen in a private home, often when people are alone. 

‘Fear and shame keeps drug use a secret,’ she said. 

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he gets emails every Monday on drug deaths, including nine last week and 12 the week before. 

He said one week it was his own family member.

‘I felt like crying, and I still feel like crying. This is a big, big thing,’ Stewart said.

The federal government said they hope that the new policy will help reduce overdose deaths by easing a fear of arrest by those who need help.

British Colombia is set to decriminalize possession of up to 2.5 grams opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA (pictured) starting January 31, 2023

The policy comes after British Columbia has become the epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis

‘Stigma and fear of criminalization cause some people to hide their drug use, use alone, or use in other ways that increase the risk of harm. This is why the Government of Canada treats substance use as a health issue, not a criminal one,’ Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam tweeted on Tuesday. 

The province’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said that with the policy, ‘we are taking an important step forward to removing that fear and shame and stigma.’

‘This is not one single thing that will reverse this crisis but it will make a difference,’ she added.

British Columbia has long been the leader in Canada’s harm reduction movement, opening the first supervised injection site in North America in 2003 in Vancouver a  decade after launching the province’s first needle exchange program, the New York Times reported. 

It is now the first Canadian province to apply for an exemption from Canada’s drug laws and could serve as a template for other jurisdictions across Canada.

‘This time-limited exemption is the first of its kind in Canada,’ Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions, said. ‘Real-time adjustments will be made upon receiving analysis of any data that indicates a need to change.’

Oregon was the first state in the United States to decriminalize possession of personal-use amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and other drugs after voters approved a ballot measure in 2020 to decriminalize hard drugs.

The state’s program, which has been promoted as a way to establish and fund addiction recovery centers that would offer people aid instead of incarceration, is being watched as a potential model for other states.

But in the first year after the new approach took effect in February 2021, only 1 percent of people who received citations for possessing controlled substances asked for help via a new hotline.

Source: Read Full Article