As part of Justin Trudeau’s effort to reduce the number of fatal drug overdoses, the province of British Columbia on the country’s Pacific coast is the first province to adopt a policy of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and other narcotics.
The solution that Trudeau provided to the problem of people dying from drug overdoses is not to ban the use of illegal narcotics but rather to make them legal to use.
Possession of up to 2.5 grams of opioids (such as heroin, morphine, and fentanyl), crack and powder cocaine, meth, and ecstasy will no longer be a crime.
Instead, residents who are caught with narcotics in their possession will be offered information on health and social services.
“Adults found in personal possession of any combination of these illegal drugs that adds up to a combined total of 2.5 grams or less are not subject to criminal charges and the drugs are not seized. Instead, they are offered information about health and social supports. This includes support with making a referral to local treatment and recovery services, if requested,” said the BC government.
The exemption started on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, and will last for three years.
As of Jan. 31, 2023, adults aged 18+ in BC who possess 2.5g or less of certain illegal drugs for personal use will not face criminal charges. BC will be the 1st province to take this step to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal justice one. https://t.co/jAa8Ehmcqt pic.twitter.com/0yMqnvvp6k
— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) January 26, 2023
“The decriminalization of people who possess certain illegal drugs for personal use is a critical step in B.C.’s fight against the toxic drug crisis,” BC government said.
“It will help reduce the barriers and stigma that prevent people from accessing life-saving supports and services. Substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal justice issue,” it added.
“Decriminalizing people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving supports,” said Jennifer Whiteside, the British Columbia minister for mental health and addictions, per FOX News.
“[This is] a monumental shift in drug policy that favors fostering trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalization,” said Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s federal minister of mental health and addictions.
National Post reported:
Oregon’s own experiment with drug decriminalization has largely failed
Not far below B.C.’s southern border is the state of Oregon, a jurisdiction of similar size that pursued a near-identical approach to drug decriminalization just two years ago. The reviews are not great.
A recent audit by the Oregon Health Authority said the measure has been largely ineffective at addressing fatal overdoses and rates of drug abuse, both of which have gotten worse.
The concept pitched to Oregonians in 2020 was that decriminalization would drug users out of the cold to seek help at government harm reduction facilities such as needle exchanges and clinics handing out Naloxone. From there, they could then be urged into treatment.
But a report card found that fewer that one per cent of known Oregon drug users – about 136 people – ever opted to enter rehab in the post-decriminalization era.