Canada responds to British Columbia drug crisis by decriminalizing narcotics

Canada responds to British Columbia drug crisis by decriminalizing narcotics

A Canadian province ravaged by overdose deaths will stop arresting adults caught with small amounts of hard drugs in a desperate attempt to stem the fatalities.

The three-year experiment in British Columbia is set to begin Jan. 31 and will allow anyone 18 or older to possess up to 2.5 grams of drugs including opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy, for personal use.

The Canadian government approved the plan Tuesday, with Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, tweeting, “Stigma and fear of criminalization cause some people to hide their drug use, use alone, or use in other ways that increase the risk of harm.”

“This is why the [government of Canada] treats substance use as a health issue, not a criminal one,” she added.

British Columbia has recorded more than 9,400 drug deaths since 2016, including a record 2,224 last year.

The western coastal province’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said, “This is not one single thing that will reverse this crisis but it will make a difference.”

But drug policy activist Dana Larsen said the move was “not going to stop anybody dying of an overdose or drug poisoning.”

“I think we need stores where you can go in and find legal heroin, legal cocaine and legal ecstasy and things like that for adults,” he said.

“The real solution to this problem is to treat it like alcohol and tobacco.”

British Columbia was the first province to apply for an exemption from Canada’s drug laws and Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions, said what happens there could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

“Real-time adjustments will be made upon receiving analysis of any data that indicates a need to change,” Bennett said.

In their exemption application, provincial officials sought permission to let people possess up to 4.5 grams of drugs.

The situation in British Columbia is so grim that five young men overdosed on opioids on a park bench in Vancouver last year but were mistaken for sleeping drunks by cops.

Four of them were later hospitalized in serious condition after authorities finally realized the men were barely breathing and revived them with naloxone.

And in 2019, a 14-year-old boy died of an overdose in a Langley Township skate park as onlookers stood by and laughed at his predicament.

Late last year, outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the first two legal shooting galleries for drug addicts in the US, with opening day seeing five overdoses at a site in East Harlem and one person transported in an ambulance from the other site in Washington Heights.

“British Columbia has led North America in safe injection sites, all while crossing overdose death milestones every month,” City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) told The Post at the time

“How anyone can see this as a solution to a serious problem is beyond me, never mind the concerns of the neighbors.”

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