Small quantities of hard drugs are now “not criminal” to possess in British Columbia.
The province’s three-year program began Tuesday, allowing British Columbians to keep small quantities of heroin, crack, cocaine, fentanyl, MDMA, and meth on hand.
Residents over the age of 18 may have a combined total of 2.5 grams of the drugs.
“Adults […] are not subject to criminal charges and the drugs are not seized,” wrote the government release. “Instead, they are offered information about health and social supports.”
According to the province, decriminalization will reduce stigma around drug use, and address barriers that prevent addicts from accessing life-saving support.
Many agree, including the BC Association of Chiefs of Police. Since 2020, the association has released several statements in alignment with the province about stigma and healing.
The policy took effect Tuesday, promising that adults with the allotted personal quantities will not be charged or arrested.
“Substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal justice issue,” wrote a provincial statement.
Not everybody sees it that way.
Tristin Hopper of The National Post wrote the program could make everything worse. He compared it to an example from the United States.
“A near-identical experiment in Oregon has thus far failed on almost every metric,” he wrote.
Hopper pointed to an increase in drug overdose and drug abuse in the state of Oregon that was found two years after the state decriminalized hard drugs. He wrote that the program didn’t deliver on its promise that addicts would seek state-funded facilities and subsequently opt into rehabilitation.
“Fewer than one per cent of known Oregon drug users – about 136 people – ever opted to rehab,” Hopper explains.
In light of this information, the Oregon secretary of state said it was too early to call the decriminalization of hard drugs a failure.