Opioid overdose is one of the leading causes of death in British Columbia within the last decade
by Charlotte Hui
Every day in Canada, many people are dying from an opioid overdose. Substance abuse is a public health problem with many factors beyond an individual’s control, including traumatic experiences, physical and mental health, income and stable housing, and the impact of colonization on indigenous peoples.
Today, the Minister of Mental Health, Carolyn Bennett, announced the government’s change in policy towards the usage of small amounts of illicit drugs,with the hopes of helping to provide help to those in need.
Under the new proposed bill, the government would no longer arrest or charge a person with 2.5 grams or less of an illicit substance. Nor will they seek to confiscate it.
As Canadians’ psychology and drug use worsened during the pandemic, Bennett believes addressing drug overdoses needs to consider social factors. To save more lives, prevent overdoses, and reduce stigma, British Columbia will pass the legal Crisis and the Exemption from Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, effective January 31, 2023, for three years. The government cannot criminally charge adults 18 and older in British Columbia for possession of an illegal drug of up to 2.5 grams.
“This time-limited exemption is the first of its kind in Canada, and with it comes the responsibility for the health and safety of all people in B.C.,”
“Throughout the exemption period, we will work with the province to analyze data and evidence and assess the impact to ensure it continues to be the right decision for people in B.C. I assure you that real-time adjustments will be made based upon receipt and analysis of any concerning data. We look forward to undertaking this ground-breaking work with them in partnership. “Said Bennett
The exemption is not legalizing illegal drugs, but adults holding 2.5g or less will be given a second chance, with police providing them with health and social support information and helping with referrals if necessary.
“Substance use is a public health issue, not a criminal one,” said Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
“By decriminalizing people who use drugs, we will break down the stigma that stops people from accessing life-saving support and services.”
“Decriminalizing possession of drugs is a historic, brave, and ground-breaking step in the fight to save lives from the poison drug crisis. Today marks a fundamental rethinking of drug policy that favors healthcare over handcuffs.”
I could not be more proud of the leadership shown here by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia.” Said Mayor Kennedy Stewart, City of Vancouver
Over the next three years, the federal government will work with executive and law enforcement agencies to see that this act is the right choice for British Columbians and prevent any consequences.