British Columbia will become the first province in Canada to decriminalize cocaine, amphetamines, and opioids. Starting on January 31, 2023, people 18 years or older carrying 2.5 grams of the aforementioned drugs will not face criminal charges or mandatory treatment.
This comes after the B.C. government asked for an exemption from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to combat the ongoing overdose crisis. It will still be illegal to traffic drugs, and to possess drugs in grade schools, licensed child care facilities, in airports, or on Coast Guard vessels and helicopters.
Calls to decriminalize drugs in the province have been ongoing for some time. Some critics say that 2.5 grams is a “ridiculously low” amount, as the province originally asked the feds to decriminalize possession under 4.5 grams. The Drug User Liberation Front, the same group that handed out free samples of illicit drugs in B.C. multiple times, have called the current decriminalized amount a “death sentence.”
Some people fear that the currently proposed limit could lead to drug users buying more potent drugs, and think that the government shouldn’t wait until next year for the decriminalization to begin.
The exemption from federal law notably doesn’t include psychedelic drugs like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA, or LSD.
Beyond the notable critiques behind the move, some agree that at the very least, decriminalizing drugs in B.C. will help destigmatize drug use and addiction.