Illicit Drugs Decriminalized in British Columbia
This is not the legalization of illicit drugs: Federal Minister Bennett
Canadian Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, Carolyn Bennett announced she is decriminalizing possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.
Starting January 31st, 2023, 18 and over adults in BC will no longer be subject to criminal charges for possession of fewer than 2.5 grams of certain drugs for personal use.
British Columbia had requested possession of up to 4.5 grams of illicit drugs be decriminalized.
Health Canada approved the time-limited exemption in response to a request made by the Province of BC in February of last year.
Minister Carolyn Bennett began by acknowledging Vancouver and BCs leadership dealing with the opioid crisis, specifically referring to the "Four Pillars" and Harm Reduction initiative.
Vancouver was the first Canadian city to open safe injection sites like Insite.
Bennett went on to blame "ideological opposition" to "Harm Reduction" stating that opposition has "cost lives"
"BC has been the epicenter of the drug crisis for several years," Bennett said, reminding attendees that in 2016 the provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendal declared BC's opioid crisis a public health emergency.
"Since 2016 there have been over 9400 overdose deaths due to toxic illicit drug deaths. In 2021 alone more than 2200 lives were lost in BC" "affecting thousands of families, some who lost multiple members"
Minister Bennett also promised BC an additional 11.78 million dollars for 14 projects thru health Canada.
The monies are to scale up prevention, harm reduction and treatment programs supporting those at risk...
Despite their efforts, the crisis has grown, exasperated by a toxic illicit drug supply.
Critics of the plan say it's a step in the right direction but it does nothing to stop people from dying of an overdose or from contaminated drugs. That, critics say, can only be addressed by providing a safe drug supply.
Portugal decriminalized the consumption of all drugs in 2001. The first country to do so. If someone is found to be in possession of drugs in that country they are offered treatment counseling and legal advice.
The three-year exemption is for people who possess a small amount of certain illicit substances for personal use.
The exemption will be in effect from January 31, 2023, to January 31, 2026, throughout B.C.
Drugs include opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA (Ecstasy).
Canadian chiefs of police and BC chiefs of police support the announcement. Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Minister Sheila Malcolmson, Bonnie Henry
The Minister emphasized this is not legalization, but an exemption to Canadian drug and substances act 56(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
It remains to be seen if other Canadian provinces follow BCs lead