British Columbia becomes the first province in Canada to decriminalize heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and other hard drugs

One of Canada’s largest provinces is moving forward with a plan to become the first province in the country to decriminalize several hard drugs.

Starting Tuesday, residents of British Columbia over the age of 18 will be allowed to carry up to 2.5 grams of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and morphine, The BBC reported.

British Columbia has been allowed by the government to test the plan for three years, when the drugs will still be illegal, but those carrying less than 2.5 grams will not be arrested, charged or confiscated.

Instead, residents with drugs will be offered information about health and social services.

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High levels of drug use, homelessness, poverty, crime, mental illness and sex work are prolific along East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Vancouver, Colombia -British.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“Decriminalizing people who use drugs removes the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer to seek lifesaving supports,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and of the Dependencies of British Columbia, regarding the plan.

Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said the decision is “a monumental change in drug policy that promotes the promotion of trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services. rather than further criminalization”.

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  A man shows off an eight scoop, or 3.5 grams, of fentanyl along East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A man shows off an eight scoop, or 3.5 grams, of fentanyl along East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Proponents of the plan hope it will address a spike in overdose deaths that has claimed 10,000 lives in British Columbia since 2016, when the country declared drug-related deaths a public health emergency, Radio-Canada reported.

Many critics of the plan in Canada say it doesn’t go far enough and that 2.5 grams is too low a threshold that will make no difference for users who use large amounts of drugs.

“The decriminalization, in my view, would be that if you have a substance for personal use, then it’s for personal use, and the police shouldn’t have a role in that. … What you decide to use for your personal needs is your choice,” B.C. Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe told CBC.

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Amy Evans, director of the Overdose Prevention Society, carries a single dose of naloxone, a drug that quickly reverses an opioid overdose, at PAHO in the Downtown Eastside on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia .

Amy Evans, director of the Overdose Prevention Society, carries a single dose of naloxone, a drug that quickly reverses an opioid overdose, at PAHO in the Downtown Eastside on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia .
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Some have publicly expressed their opposition to the decriminalization of drugs, including Chuck Doucette, President of the Canadian Drug Prevention Network, who has stated that “making it easier for them to use drugs is a bit like palliative care”.

“It’s just dooming them to a slow death from drugs, whereas if you get them off drugs, give them life back, they can enjoy life,” Doucette said, The New York Times reported. , adding that the plan is a “cop out” and that drug users should be given help to address the root causes “that led them to use drugs in the first place”.

Others have pointed out that a similar plan in Oregon enacted two years ago has failed to yield significant results and that most overdose deaths in British Columbia occur in inner cities where the drugs have already been effectively decriminalized, the National Post reported.

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