Canada decriminalizes illegal drugs in British Columbia amid overdose crisis

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Canada’s drug regulator announced on Tuesday that it will temporarily decriminalize illicit drugs for personal use in British Columbia for three years starting Jan. 31, 2023.

Why is this important: The exemption is the first of its kind in Canadian history and responds to an unprecedented and growing overdose crisis in the province.

Exemption will allow adults in the province to carry up to 2.5 grams of opioids – including heroin, morphine and fentanyl – crack and cocaine powder, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as of ecstasy.

  • They will not face criminal charges for transporting up to that amount of those specific types of drugs and their drugs will not be confiscated. They will receive information about available local health and social services and assistance with these services upon request.
  • People will still face criminal charges if they possess quantities over this limit or if they produce or traffic drugs. Drug use near schools, daycare centers and airports will always be illegal.

What they say : “We are granting this exemption because our government is committed to using all available tools that reduce the stigma, harms of substance use, and to continue to work with jurisdictions, to save lives and end this crisis.” , Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said in a statement on Tuesday.

  • “Throughout the exemption period, we will work with the province to analyze the data and evidence, and assess the impact to ensure this continues to be the right decision for the people of British Columbia. I assure you that real-time adjustments will be made based on the receipt and analysis of any relevant data.”
  • Bennett also announced $11.78 million in additional federal funding for projects to increase prevention, harm reduction and treatment efforts for those at risk of substance abuse and overdose-related harms.

The big picture: British Columbia first declared drug overdoses and deaths a public health emergency in 2016, and the crisis has only intensified throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the government said on Tuesday. national health agency of Canada.

  • Last year alone, around 2,200 people died from drug overdoses in the province, an increase of more than 20% from the death toll of around 1,700 in 2020, CBC reports.

Go further: The United States exceeded 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to include a quote from Canada’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

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