Canada’s BC moves to decriminalise small amounts of illicit drugs | Drugs News


The westernmost province of British Columbia says the transfer, the primary of its form in Canada, goals to assist deal with the opioid disaster.

The Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) will decriminalise small quantities of illicit medication for private use, the federal government has introduced, in a first-of-its-kind measure in Canada that goals to deal with the opioid crisis.

In a statement on Tuesday, the BC authorities mentioned the province has been granted a three-year exemption to Canada’s federal drug management statute, the Managed Medicine and Substances Act.

Adults aged 18 and above who’re in possession of two.5gm (0.09 ounces) of sure illicit substances – together with heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA – for private use is not going to be arrested, charged or have their medication seized, the federal government said in a factsheet.

The exemption will come into impact on January 31, 2023 and final till January 31, 2026.

“It is a essential day,” Sheila Malcolmson, BC’s minister of psychological well being and addictions, mentioned throughout a information convention in Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon.

Neighborhood members from the Drug Person Liberation Entrance hand out clear, examined doses of medicine at an indication in Vancouver, British Columbia [File: Jesse Winter/Reuters]

“The federal authorities’s approval of British Columbia’s request to decriminalise individuals who use medication is a serious step in altering how we view habit and drug use in British Columbia. It displays our authorities’s settlement that substance use is a public well being subject, not a legal one.”

Canada has reported practically 27,000 deaths from opioid overdoses between January 2016 and September 2021, in line with authorities figures, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the disaster.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, the nation noticed 7,224 opioid deaths – a 95 p.c enhance in contrast with the identical interval a yr earlier. A lot of the deaths occurred in BC, Alberta and Ontario.

However hurt discount employees and drug decriminalisation advocates say the BC exemption introduced on Tuesday doesn’t do sufficient to deal with a nationwide disaster that they argue wants rapid motion.

“2.5 grams is bogus. That is far to low. Why additionally wait till January 2023?!? Why not instantly,” Zoe Dodd, a hurt discount employee and drug coverage knowledgeable based mostly in Toronto, the most important metropolis in Canada, wrote on Twitter. “The Liberals show as soon as once more that they gained’t decide to decriminalization. This isn’t simply a difficulty native to BC.”

In January, Toronto Public Well being additionally requested (PDF) a federal exemption to decriminalise private possession of illicit medication, citing an “unprecedented” enhance in opioid-related deaths. The town noticed 551 confirmed opioid deaths from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 – a 57 p.c enhance from the identical interval a yr earlier, the well being company mentioned.

“Criminalization makes it tough for individuals who use medication to entry hurt discount companies, growing the chance of harm, illness, and overdose. Much more, legal data make it onerous for folks to discover a job and a spot to reside,” it mentioned.

“Canada’s present drug legal guidelines have resulted within the disproportionate criminalization of Black and Indigenous folks. As such, decriminalization is a crucial and obligatory a part of a complete strategy to the disaster.”

Different specialists on Tuesday additionally urged Canada to broaden drug decriminalisation, stressing that the opioid disaster goes past BC alone.

“Individuals who use medication in #NovaScotia and all through Canada deserve the advantages derived from drug decriminalization,” Jamie Livingston, an affiliate professor of criminology at St Mary’s College in Halifax, wrote on Twitter.

“The harms of stigma and criminalization don’t cease on the BC border.”

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