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British Columbia Decriminalizes Hard Drugs, Becomes First Canadian Province To Do So

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Canada’s largest province, British Columbia, has started with a plan to decriminalize various hard drugs. It has become the first Canadian province to do so. 

Starting from 31st January, the decriminalization plan will permit people above the age of 18 to carry up to 2.5 grams of drugs, like cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and morphine, according to a BBC report.

As per the permission of the Canadian government, British Columbia can experiment the plan for three years, during which time the drugs, however, illegal but those possessing less than 2.5 grams will not be apprehended, face legal action or have the drugs confiscated.

Included in the plan is giving information about health and social services to residents of the province carrying these drugs. 

Speaking about the plan, the British Columbia minister for mental health and addictions, Jennifer Whiteside said, “Decriminalizing people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving support.” 

Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s federal minister of mental health and addictions, said the move is a “a monumental shift in drug policy that favors fostering trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalization”.

Supporters of the plan also believe that the incidents of drug overdose and deaths due to that will be lessened after the plan will be successfully implemented. Deaths from drug overdose have led to the death of 10,000 people in British Columbia since 2016. At the time it had declared drug related deaths a public health emergency, reported CBC. At the time it had declared drug related deaths a public health emergency, reported CBC.

However, critics of the plan believe that this will not be enough to tackle the overdose issue as the limit of 2.5 grams  will not make any difference for those who consume drugs in huge amounts. 

“Decriminalization, to my mind, would be if you have a substance for personal use, then it’s for personal use, and the police should not have a role to play in that. … What you decide to use for your personal needs is your choice,” Lisa Lapointe, British Columbia’s chief coroner, told CBC.

Some of these critics, including Chuck Doucette, president of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, have opposed decriminalizing drugs in public. Doucette said that “making drug use easier for them is kind of like palliative care.”

He added, “It’s just condemning them to a slow death because of drugs, whereas if you get them off drugs, get them a life back, they can enjoy life. He also said that the rule is a “cop out” and that drug users require support to end the root causes “that led them to use drugs in the first place.”

Some other critics have cited a similar experiment done in Oregon two years back but it did not bring any desired results. They have also stated that the majority of the deaths from drug overdose have taken place in city centers where drugs have already effectively been decriminalized, reported National Post.

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