Canada has announced that it will run a temporary trial of decriminalising the possession of certain illegal drugs in the province of British Columbia. The request was made by BC’s government after more than two thousand adults died from an overdose in the province, in just 2021 alone. They hope that this new exemption in the law will bring that high level down in its fight against drug related deaths in Canadian society.
The illicit drugs being targeted are cocaine, opioids, MDMA and methamphetamine. Under this new temporary law, adults will be allowed to possess a combined total of 2.5 grams of these drugs on their person for personal use only. The substances will remain illegal but if a person is found to have under 2.5g on them, they will not be arrested or charged for any crimes. They will even be allowed to keep the drugs and will be offered social help or medical advice to aid in fighting drug addictions.
The Canadian Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Carolyn Bennett, said in a public address that "for too many years, the ideological opposition to harm reduction has cost lives. We are doing this to save lives, but also to give people using drugs their dignity and choices." The BC government is aiming "to remove the shame that often prevents people from reaching out for life-saving help".
However, there are some exemptions in the trial stating that it will not apply the drugs were to be found on school grounds, airports or any childcare facilities. Members of Canada’s armed forces also caught with these drugs will also be prosecuted as normal.
Canada's Fight Against the Drug Epidemic
The province of British Columbia has been the turmoil of an opioid epidemic for the past five years. The local government declared that the drugs overdose crisis was a current public health emergency back in 2017 with over 9,000 people dying from a drug related overdose. This tragic crisis has been ongoing in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight. The BC health administration hopes that this specific decriminalisation trial will help put an end to this crisis once and for all. They hope that if it is successful, it will provide a template for the rest of Canada to follow suit in decriminalising these drugs in the aim of benefiting public health.
Over in the United States, a similar law was enacted in the state of Oregon in 2020. The US is also currently battling a drug epidemic that has cost thousands of American lives in the past decade. In the past two years, drug related arrests in Oregon did drop significantly as a result of the law but it was unclear if drug users actually sought help for their addictions. This lead to a debate on whether or not the law was effective or not in fighting drug overdose deaths amongst its population.
This bold strategy will last for three years in a trial that is the first of its kind in Canada. It follows the move to legalise the use of recreational marijuana nationwide in 2018. This latest decriminalisation of illegal drugs aims to begin next year and run from the 31st January 2023 to the 31st January 2026.
Article written by Alec McLoughlin
(Royalty free image sourced from:https://unsplash.com)
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