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British Columbia to trial the decriminalization of ‘hard’ drugs to fight OD crisis

British Columbia will embark on a three-tear trial to decriminalize the posession of hard drugs.

Cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and opioids such as heroin and fentanyl will be decriminalized in British Columbia. Credit - Zxc, Public Domain
Cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and opioids such as heroin and fentanyl will be decriminalized in British Columbia. Credit - Zxc, Public Domain

Starting in January 2023, British Columbia will be the first province in Canada to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use.

This innovative three-year trial is said to be the first of its kind in Canada and came about after the province asked for an exemption from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act after overdoses claimed more than two thousand lives in BC last year, according to the BBC.

This means that illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and opioids such as heroin and fentanyl will be decriminalized in British Columbia, with people 18 and older being allowed to be in possession of 2.5 grams of the drugs.

Instead of being arrested, charged, or having the drugs yanked, they’ll receive information on health and social services available to them.

“Decriminalizing the simple possession of drugs is a historic, brave, and groundbreaking step in the fight to save lives. It marks a fundamental re-thinking of drug policy that favors health care over handcuffs,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, reports CTV News Canada.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been a longtime advocate of decriminalization. She said, “Today is a very important day. It is hard to believe that we have actually gotten here.”

The whole point of this three-year trial is to hopefully reduce the stigma and shame associated with drug use that keeps people from asking for help amid what is deemed a public health emergency.

More than 9,000 people have died of overdoses in the province over the past six years, while upward of 26,000 people across all of Canada suffered fatal opioid ODs between 2016 and 2021, per the National Post

The program will run from January 31, 2023, through January 31, 2026. It will not apply to possession of said drugs at airports, in the military, or near child care sites or primary and secondary schools—and production, trafficking, and exports/imports could still bring charges, according to the Washington Post.

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