Written by Steve Cannon for USSA News.
In a bold move to tackle the increasing number of fatal drug overdoses in the country, British Columbia becomes the first province in Canada to adopt a policy of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of dangerous narcotics like fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and other opioids. This groundbreaking policy is part of the Trudeau government’s effort to reduce the number of drug-related deaths in the country.
British Columbia Decriminalizes Narcotics: A Game-Changer for Addictions Management
The solution provided by the Trudeau administration is not to ban the use of illegal narcotics but to make them legal to use. Possession of up to 2.5 grams of opioids, crack, powder cocaine, meth, and ecstasy will no longer be a crime in British Columbia. Instead, people caught with these drugs in their possession will be offered information on health and social services, including support in making a referral to local treatment and recovery services if requested.
British Columbia Leads the Way in Overdose Crisis Management: Decriminalization Aids in Reducing Barriers and Stigma
Starting on January 31, 2023, and lasting for three years, the exemption of criminal charges for the personal possession of these drugs is a critical step in British Columbia’s fight against the toxic drug crisis. The BC government believes that decriminalizing people who use drugs will reduce the fear and shame associated with substance use and will ensure that they feel safer reaching out for life-saving support.
Jennifer Whiteside, the British Columbia minister for mental health and addictions, says that “this is a monumental shift in drug policy that favors fostering trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalization.” The move has been widely praised by the public health community as well as the federal minister of mental health and addictions, Carolyn Bennett.
Oregon’s Experiment with Drug Decriminalization Falls Short
However, the success of British Columbia’s policy stands in stark contrast to the outcome of a similar experiment in the state of Oregon, which is located just below British Columbia’s southern border. Two years ago, Oregon pursued a near-identical approach to drug decriminalization, but the results have been far from satisfactory.
A recent audit by the Oregon Health Authority found that the measure has been largely ineffective in addressing fatal overdoses and rates of drug abuse, both of which have only gotten worse. The concept pitched to Oregonians in 2020 was that decriminalization would bring drug users out of the shadows to seek help at government harm reduction facilities. However, fewer than one percent of known drug users in Oregon ever opted to enter rehab in the post-decriminalization era.
The Future of Drug Policy: British Columbia Leads the Way
British Columbia’s innovative policy shift in drug policy marks a turning point in the management of the overdose crisis in Canada and sets a new standard for other provinces to follow. The move to decriminalize the possession of dangerous drugs will aid in reducing the barriers and stigma that prevent people from accessing life-saving support and services. This groundbreaking policy change is a step in the right direction and a glimmer of hope for those affected by the toxic drug crisis.