The BC Civil Liberties Association urges the BC government and Federal government to decriminalize simple drug possession immediately.
There is an urgent need to adopt evidence-based policies to support the health and safety of people who use drugs. The concurrent effects of two public health emergencies – the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis – have been tragic.
The criminalization of simple drug possession has impeded public health initiatives, increased the stigma of substance use, incarcerated otherwise law-abiding citizens, imposed direct economic costs, and disproportionately affected already marginalized groups. It has also inhibited safer consumption practices, resulting in people consuming drugs alone, rushing their consumption, and avoiding health services.
By decriminalizing simple drug possession, Canada would be taking steps towards approaching substance use as a health rather than a criminal justice issue. It would also address the current inconsistencies in enforcement, which vary across police departments.
Decriminalization of simple drug possession can only be one piece of a much broader harm reduction and health-based approach to substance use. However, it is an immediate step that the federal and BC government can take in adopting evidence-based policies.