On Tuesday, following the granting of a three-year exemption from Health Canada, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to decriminalize hard drugs, with the government arguing that “substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal justice issue.”
Many have argued that it will only result in more drugs on the street and, inevitably, more dead British Columbians, while some have praised the move as a step in the right direction.
Under the new laws, adults found possessing less than 2.5 grams of certain formerly-illicit drugs will not face criminal charges, nor will they have the substances seized by law enforcement.
Drugs that can now be possessed and used without punishment include opioids, such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, crack and powder cocaine, meth, and MDMA.
The BC government emphasized that “decriminalization is not legalization,” noting that, “under this exemption, illegal drugs (including those listed above) are not legalized and will not be sold in stores. Drug trafficking remains illegal, regardless of the amount of drug(s) in possession.” They added that all prior restrictions relating to drug use at schools, airports, and private establishments will remain in place.
While the aforementioned drugs may not be sold in stores, in Vancouver, opioids were recently made available for purchase via vending machines. The project was meant to give users access to safe medical-grade opioids instead of potentially contaminated street drugs, however, it has come under scrutiny as of late due to the potential of misuse.