The exemption allows drug users to carry up to 2.5 grams of a total of four listed substances for personal use – opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines and MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly. The exemption applies from January 31, 2023 to January 31, 2026, and police will provide information about available health care and social support instead of punishing people in possession of small amounts of exempted drugs. “This is a step in the right direction,” said Guy Felicella, a clinical consultant at the BC Centre on Substance Use in Vancouver, who has spent decades in prison for older drug offences and older. “Stopping and imprisoning me for drug use all these years never stopped me from taking drugs, even when I went to prison. It has only created stigma and discrimination, shame. Since 2016, there have been more than 9,400 deaths from toxic illicit drugs in British Columbia, with a one-year high of 2,224 in 2021, the AP reported. Despite its shortcomings, the fact that the policy is being introduced on an experimental basis is a positive thing, says Michel Kazatchkine, member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. The strongest way to convince opponents is to provide cold, harsh, and irrefutable evidence, he says, and the best way to do that is through something resembling a scientific study. “What we need is more and more evidence, not decisions about ideology or any other perception of the problem that a government may have,” he says. “The general path of reform in this sensitive area of drug policy will consist of real experiments and studies. Given the rising number of opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began in 2020, the Canadian government announced Tuesday that it will temporarily decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamines.
in the western province of British Columbia, it was the ground zero for overdoses in the country. Ottawa announced last week that B.C. adults will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA as of Jan. 31 — a signal that it will treat addiction as a mental health issue rather than a legal issue. B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Secretary Sheila Malcolmson says the move will focus on health care. Portugal is often presented as a model for the decriminalisation of drugs. There is a general concern that such measures will lead to increased use, but this has not been reflected in the country`s statistics. Drug use has decreased, drug-related deaths have decreased, and the number of people being treated for substance use disorders has increased. (One factor that obscures the data is that when Portugal introduced the policy, Portugal also invested in other areas of social protection, including a guaranteed minimum income, which likely had an impact.) “The result is this: you don`t have people on the street [taking drugs], you don`t have people dying of overdoses on the street or in private places. And there is a very good relationship between people [drug addicts] and the health sector,” said Jean-Félix Savary, secretary-general of the Groupe Romand d`études sur les addictions (GREA) in Geneva.
Most experts say it`s simply not high enough to make a significant difference. “I really take the example of the real experts,” Perrin says, “it`s the people who take drugs.” And members of this group have repeatedly stated that a person who has consumed substances long-term usually has more than 2.5 grams for their own use. When British Columbia submitted its request for decriminalization to Health Canada late last year, it asked for a threshold of 4.5 grams — and that was already considered too low by the same groups. Later, it turned out that the final threshold of 2.5 grams was based on police comments. “If you want to decriminalize this political space, why are you inviting the police to get behind the wheel? It doesn`t make sense,” says Werb. The exemption, announced Tuesday by the country`s Drug Enforcement Administration, comes four years after the country legalized the possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes, making Canada a small group of countries around the world that have taken steps to decriminalize illegal drugs. As illicit drugs become increasingly dangerous on both sides of the border, she is keeping a close eye on whether Canada — where she grew up — listens to requests for a regulated safe supply. Health officials say those found with up to 2.5 grams of specific drugs receive information and referrals to local health and social services from law enforcement.
Persons over the age of 18 who carry these drugs in prescribed quantities and for personal use will not be charged, arrested or confiscated by the police. Instead, interactions with officials are used as an opportunity to be referred to local health and social services if desired. Kamarulzaman advocates for decriminalization, combined with clean needle and syringe programs to reduce the spread of infectious diseases like HIV – about 30% of new HIV cases outside of epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa are among people who inject drugs. HIV rates dropped dramatically in Portugal when the country adopted its discrimination policy in 2001. Decriminalization would also likely reduce the higher rates of spread of diseases (particularly HIV and TB and now Covid-19) associated with incarceration. “From this point of view alone, it would be extremely beneficial for the public to keep out of prison people who should not be taken there in the first place,” Kamarulzaman said. Decriminalization means that users of certain controlled substances will no longer be subject to the criminal penalties they would have had before the drug was reclassified. The goal is to reduce the burden on addicts and recreational users while freeing up limited resources in the justice system.