Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Canada decriminalizes cocaine, heroin and fentanyl use in British Columbia

A supply kit inside a drug use room in Vancouver, British Columbia / reuters

An experiment is being conducted to control drug use in the province, which has been implemented in Oregon (USA) for two years, and allows adults to take up to 2.5 grams of the hard drug.

It will no longer be a crime to possess a few grams of cocaine or heroin in a Canadian province. British Columbia has joined another initiative from Oregon in the United States, which has been implementing a decriminalization program for possession of these substances for self-consumption for more than two years. On Canada’s east coast, a use has been approved that authorizes up to 2.5 grams of hard drugs without having to commit to sitting on the bench. The measure seeks to curb crime related to drug sales and trafficking, as well as promote health guidance above legal punishment among consumers.

The program doesn’t mean that these types of drugs will no longer be illegal, just that adults won’t be arrested or charged for carrying small amounts. On the other hand, they will have preferential access to social and health services to obtain information on drug abuse. The government hopes to ensure that addicts feel more confident in health and can access counseling or sign up for detox programs without fear of social stigma. “Criminalization takes away the fear and shame and makes them feel safer seeking help to save their lives,” said Jennifer Whiteside, the local minister for mental health and addictions.

Vancouver, the province’s largest city, has been chosen to add a special and controversial point of view. It will offer users of these substances places where they can inject themselves, antidotes and even prescriptions. Defenders of this measure ensure that by facilitating access to aseptic sites and offering health monitoring, consumer victims avoid the risk of infection or the spread of diseases.

At least 10,000 people have lost their lives to overdoses in British Columbia since 2016, when a public health emergency was declared due to a surge in drug use. It is the most drug-affected province. Cocaine, fentanyl and synthetic substances are believed to be the leading causes of unnatural death in the region. Alarms were raised last year when a thousand deaths were recorded in just six months; The highest number of deaths ever recorded by coroners in the history of British Columbia. This sad circumstance has given the greatest impetus to the defenders of the legalization of some of these drugs on the grounds that only controlling their consumption and creating a specific health infrastructure will stop the bleeding of the victims.

British Columbia’s Chief Coroner, Lisa LaPointe, has stressed the need for a more comprehensive approach to addiction. The rationale is that treating consumption as a disease is more effective than prosecuting it as a crime. “Encouraging compassionate treatment and support is the only way to get citizens out of harm’s way and out of this public health crisis,” Lapointe told RCI.

This initiative is in addition to the Oregon policy. In 2020, this North American state announced plans to decriminalize cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and morphine. However, over the next two years there was a 20% increase in overdoses, although the administration decided to keep the program as it was still in the experimental phase. In fact, last year the government invested 300 million dollars (about 200 million euros) to expand the coverage of services for drug addicts.

The Oregon case has now thrust British Columbia into a global debate on how to fight drugs. The program has been approved by the Government of Canada for three years, but can be revoked at any time if the results are adverse.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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