British Columbia to attempt decriminalization to curb overdose crisis

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The British Columbia to seek decriminalization to curb overdose crisis

Moms Stop the Harm marched in Vancouver in April 2021 to mark the fifth anniversary of British Columbia's public health emergency over illicit drug deaths.

As the overdose crisis, especially of opioids, wreaks havoc across Canada, much of the focus on toxic and illicit substances has shifted in recent years to areas of British Columbia. British, including in rural areas, where people still succumb massively to their addiction problems.

To combat this epidemic, the province will, on January 31, become the first place in the country to launch a three-year decriminalization experiment, allowing drug addicts aged 18 and over to carry 2.5 grams combinations of opioids like heroin and fentanyl as well as cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA.

The latest data from the BC Coroners' Office shows about 14,000 people have died since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016, with most deaths occurring in private residences. In 2021, illicit fentanyl was implicated in 87% of deaths.

Families whose loved ones have fatally overdosed are increasingly demanding the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs for personal use to reduce the stigma associated with criminalization. They also want people to be able to access health services more easily, which could save lives in some cases.

Some drug users as well as advocacy organizations like Moms Stop the Harm, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and the HIV Legal Network are among those claiming that a cumulative threshold of 2.5 grams of drugs does not #x27;is not enough for many individuals. They argue that in rural areas and some remote communities, people often buy larger quantities of substances when they have access to the illicit market.

A man holds a poster that reads 'Wake up, we are dying' in English during a protest to bring public attention to the overdose crisis in Vancouver in February 2017.

Mike Serr, co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said his organization is aiming for a maximum threshold of one gram of illicit substances in Colombia's decriminalization model -British.

“We don't want to see drug dealers or organized crime take advantage of the good intentions behind decriminalization. We want to have a system that does not promote illicit drug use but instead tries to help people and communities,” he said.

M . Serr noted that he helped design training that will be used with approximately 9,300 police officers in British Columbia before decriminalization begins.

“This training is going to include everything they need to understand the thresholds and how decriminalization works, including distributing resource cards to individuals and in what situations this measure is appropriate,” he added. /p>

Mr. Serr said the maps that police will distribute in British Columbia will only be used to provide information on where people may be able to access addiction and homelessness services.

Training must be given to approximately 9,300 police officers in British Columbia before the start of the decriminalization. (Archives)

Activist Garth Mullins, who was involved in the decriminalization planning process, however took a stand against the distribution of cards by security forces. #x27;order.

“I fear that the success or failure of decriminalization will be judged by how many people will have gone for treatment or how many people will have stopped using drugs and whether it is based on health parameters. You really have to calculate it based on the drop in the number of interactions with the police,” he pointed out.

The Department of Mental Health and Addictions said ongoing monitoring and evaluation were essential parts of British Columbia's request to the federal government, approved in May 2022, to address any unintended consequences and to ensure that people are not criminalized again.

The federal government is currently considering a request from the City of Toronto to implement a similar experiment, but this request does not currently include any threshold with respect to the quantity transported.

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