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Decriminalizing simple drug possession in Vancouver

The BCCLA stands in support of Vancouver City Council’s Motion B4, which calls for the decriminalization of simple drug possession in Vancouver.

Since 2016, over 14,700 people have died by accidental overdose in Canada, with 1,500 lives tragically claimed in Vancouver alone.

Now, the concurrent effects of two public health emergencies, the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis, have escalated the crisis of overdose deaths in the absence of decriminalization and the lack of safe supply. There are decisive steps every level of government can and must take to protect the health, dignity and freedom of people who use drugs.

Full decriminalization means removing all criminal sanctions and other regulatory measures — such as administrative penalties, fines, drug seizures, involuntary treatment or coerced diversion programming — for the possession of substances for personal use.

Given the omnipresent reality of police and law enforcement disproportionately targeting Indigenous, Black, homeless, sex worker, undocumented migrant, two spirit and trans people who use drugs for street checks, profiling, surveillance, and intimidation, it is vital that there are no criminal or administrative sanctions for personal drug possession.

Reducing stigma, ending police harm, increasing access to justice, meaningful commitments to anti-racism, and saving lives all require full decriminalization.

Read the full letter here.