Canada is allowing the province of British Columbia to try a three-year experiment in decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs
Canada’s government said Tuesday it will allow British Columbia to try a three-year experiment in decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs, seeking to stem a record number of overdose deaths by easing fear of arrest by users in need of help.
The policy approved by federal officials doesn’t legalize the substances, but Canadians in the Pacific coast province who possess up to 2.5 grams of illicit drugs for personal use will not be arrested or charged.
The three-year exemption taking effect Jan. 31 will apply to drug users 18 and over and include opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
“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,” tweeted Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
The province’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said that “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.
Dana Larsen, a drug policy reform activist, called the announcement “a step in the right direction,” but said he would prefer to see development of a safe drug supply.
“It’s not going to stop anybody dying of an overdose or drug poisoning,” Larsen said. “The drugs are still going to be contaminated.”
“I think we need stores where you can go in and find legal heroin, legal cocaine and legal ecstasy and things like that for adults,” he said. “The real solution to this problem is to treat it like alcohol and tobacco.”
Alissa Greer, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University who has a doctorate in public health, said a regulated decriminalization of drugs could help lessen overdose deaths.
Jim Morris and Rob Gillies – ABC News – 2022-05-31.