On Tuesday, the Canadian Goverment began its trial of decriminalising hard drugs in British Columbia. Adults can now possess a small amount (2.5g) of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine or ecstasy without being arrested.
The programme will run for three years from January 31 2023 to January 31 2026.
Canadian adults found in possession of 2.5g of the drugs will be directed to social services, although the selling of such drugs is still illegal.
There are no plans to sell drugs in stores like marijuana and trafficking them across borders also remains illegal.
Sheila Malcolmson, the minister for mental health and addiction in British Columbia, said: “Substance use is a public health issue, not a criminal one.”
“By decriminalising people who use drugs, we will break down the stigma that stops people from accessing life-saving support and services.”
Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s federal addiction minister, has said it was time for Canada to have “a monumental shift” in drug policy and that the ultimate goal is to “save lives”.
The programme hopes that by not prosecuting people holding small amounts of drugs it will reduce the stigma associated with substance use and make it easier for people to approach authorities for help.
Staff Sergeant Kris Clark has said the police’s role in the programme will be “to redirect people who possess small amounts of certain illegal drugs away from the criminal justice system and towards health and social services.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the Liberal Party is “following science and data” to make sure a system and support is in place for users.
He also said cities like Toronto and Edmonton wish to participate in a similar programme and that his Goverment is “going to work with them every step of the way as, or if, we move forward”.
However, the programme has not been without criticism, as Pierre Poilievre, Canada’s Conservative Party leader, bashed Justin Trudeau over the scheme.
He said: “After eight years you have given in to Canadian cities that are turning into crime zones”.
On Tuesday, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said that 2,272 people have died from illicit drug use in 2022 in British Columbia, and said that the deaths were “preventable”.
She said: “To the families of the 45 individuals who have passed away in the last week alone … to their friends and their colleagues and their communities and loved ones: my heart goes out to you and I’m so sorry that we’re continuing to fail.
“I hope that we can sit with that grief and that outrage. I hope that every citizen of the province reflects on this report and feels that outrage and uses that to drive the advocacy that is needed to generate change.”
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Some critics feel that although the programme is a positive step, more needed to be done to address drug problems in Canada.
Robert Schwartz, a professor at the University of Toronto said: “The problem that we have with these substances is that we have a huge, illicit supply that’s causing great harm,
“To really deal with this, we need a comprehensive public health approach. This decriminalization, it’s a first step.”
A spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department also spoke about the new program and said: “For many years we have had a de facto policy not to arrest people for personal drug possession but this change will mean fewer seizures of small amounts of drugs.”
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.