June 1, 2022 – “The shocking number of lives lost to the overdose crisis requires bold actions and significant policy change. I have thoroughly reviewed and carefully considered both the public health and public safety impacts of this request,” Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of mental health and addictions and associate minister of health, said in a press release. “Eliminating criminal penalties for those carrying small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use will reduce stigma and harm and provide another tool for British Columbia to end the overdose crisis.”

BC has consistently reported the highest fatal overdose rates of any Canadian province, suffering 2,224 suspected overdose deaths in 2021, as the CBC reported. While decriminalization does not directly address the adulterated supply of unregulated drugs, proponents have long argued that removing the fear of arrest facilitates access to harm reduction resources, in addition to reducing criminalization.

Under this framework, the drugs remain illegal, but people aged 18 and over who have up to 2.5 grams of the indicated drugs in their possession will not be arrested or charged, nor will they have their drugs seized by police. “Instead, police will offer information on available health and social supports and will help with referrals when requested,” according to the Health Canada press release. Some models that offer treatment instead of arrest are far more coercive, so it’s significant that such referrals will—at least in theory—be optional.


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