A handful of countries have decriminalized personal use and possession of hard drugs, including Europe’s Czechia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, aiming to treat drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.
Starting Tuesday, Canada’s largest province British Columbia also decriminalised possession of hard drugs. “The decriminalisation of people who possess certain illegal drugs for personal use is a critical step in B.C.’s fight against the toxic drug crisis. 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,” stated the government in a press release.
Health Canada granted a 3 years exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to the Province of B.C., under which adults over 18 are allowed to carry up to 2.5 grams of drugs such as: Opioids (heroin, morphine, and fentanyl), Crack and powder cocaine, Methamphetamine (Meth), MDMA (Ecstasy). According to the government, “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.”
As per statistics in 2022 alone, there were 2,272 suspected drug toxicity deaths in the Province of B.C., or about 6 deaths per day, one person every 4 hours, which makes it the second deadliest year on record. The three-year pilot project aims to combat the opioid crisis, which “has never been more urgent. The effects of this public health crisis have devastated communities across British Columbia and across Canada,” said Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett.