The BC Government has applied to decriminalize some illicit drugs to combat toxic drug supply and the resulting ongoing and increasing deaths. This is an important topic in BC as overdoses and deaths due to toxic supply sharply has increased since the onset of the pandemic.
“We are pleased that the BC Government has moved forward with this initiative,” said Anita Huberman, President & CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade. “Incarceration, gang related activity, and overdoses are all directly linked to the fact that illicit drugs are circulating in our communities. It is creating a strain on our community resources, impacting economic activity, and reducing the ability for people to feel safe in many parts of our city.”
The BC Government is requesting to establish a cumulative binding threshold quantity of 4.5g of opioids (including heroin and fentanyl), powder cocaine and crack cocaine, and methamphetamine, with no drug seizures, arrests, or charges for simple possession at or below this amount. BC’s exemption request does not seek to exempt individuals from the charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Therefore, police will maintain their authority under current law to arrest and/or seize drugs where evidence of an intent to traffic exists, even if amounts of substances in possession are below threshold quantities.
The Surrey Board of Trade composed a policy earlier in 2021 centred around this issue, calling for provincial and federal collaboration on the decriminalization of illicit drugs. The specific recommendations were:
That the Federal Government work with Provinces and Territories to:
1. Decriminalize and regulate all non-medical drugs;
2. Create rehabilitation programs by working with relevant not-for-profit organizations to build their capacity; and,
3. Work with businesses to create work-placement programs for those that have completed rehabilitation programs by subsidizing a portion of the wages.
“The criminal justice system is overburdened. Our healthcare system is at capacity. Our labour force is in short supply. Decriminalization and regulation of non-medical drugs can alleviate these pressures and reduce stigma. By decriminalizing and regulating the illicit drug supply, overdoses can be managed. By ensuring that possession of non-medical drugs and being under the influence does not result in criminal charges, our workforce is not reduced. But there must be a rehabilitation aspect included in decriminalization and regulation. Rehabilitation coupled with work placing programs will increase our labour supply, reduce the toll on our healthcare and policing systems in the long run, and lead to fewer deaths.”
Read the BC Government news release https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021MMHA0059-002084
Read the decriminalization application submission https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/DecrimSubmission.pdf
To read the full Surrey Board of Trade Policy visit https://businessinsurrey.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Updated-20210308-1445-Surrey-Decriminalize-and-Regulate-Non-Medical-Use-of-All-Drugs.pdf
Anita Huberman, 604-634-0342, firstname.lastname@example.org