Others have given their five reasons why B.C.’s decriminalization of drugs is a terrible idea. While I’m sympathetic to some of these arguments, I’ve come up with five ways for how B.C. decriminalization could work.

It’s like cannabis legalization. Canada could have had a free and fair market that expunged past records and welcomed our world-renown “B.C. Bud” underground economy into the limelight.

Instead, the Trudeau government continued the large producer regime set up under Stephen Harper’s government. Legalization in Canada was about selling equity, not weed.

Cannabis legalization in Canada was about politicians and cops profiting off a plant they threw people in cages for. The same people who justified prohibition were now the “experts” telling us how to legalize it responsibly.

So, naturally, I am skeptical of “experts” telling me how great and successful B.C.’s decriminalization of drugs will be, especially when the intended goal is to get people into addiction rehabs and treatment centres.

But I am also appalled by some who have been excellent at opposing COVID lockdowns, vaccine passports, “Just Transitions,” and the growing surveillance state.

They see the hell-on-earth that is Vancouver‘s Downtown Eastside and make simplistic, Puritan arguments about drugs.

They sound like liberals on guns.

B C Decriminalizing could work

A vast majority of American gun owners are law-abiding and peaceful. But if you tune into the corporate press, they jump on every instance of gun violence as if regular gun owners are responsible.

Likewise, most drug users are peaceful and responsible. That includes users of opioids like fentanyl. But if you turn on the T.V., you’d think anyone who’s touched an opioid has gotten addicted and is at risk of dying on a Canadian street.

So let’s dispel these myths. Let’s list how B.C. decriminalization could work (without burdening the taxpayer or violating anyone’s property rights).

If I can demonstrate how this could work, and you still walk away thinking, “drugs are bad, mmkay?” even after checking out the footnotes, I politely ask you … WTF?

It’s annoying when liberals confidently spread their ignorance about guns. I ask you not to do the same thing with drugs.

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #5: Avoiding Oregon’s Mistake

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #5: Avoiding Oregon's Mistake

A caveat: I don’t expect B.C. politicians to avoid Oregon’s mistake. I think they are making the same mistakes which will only fuel the fire of the anti-drug lobby.

So let’s examine: why didn’t it work in Oregon, and why has it worked in Portugal, Spain and Switzerland?

Why it Worked in Portugal:

 As we’ve covered before, Portugal decriminalized hard drugs like meth, cocaine, and heroin, but they also stepped up their enforcement, targeting large-scale dealers and operations. 

They also mandated treatment for addicts. Some suggest B.C. politicians should implement a similar policy for decriminalization to work. However, I am 100% against addiction treatment as it currently exists.

It’s not up to me or anybody else (certainly not the government) to determine whether your drug use is problematic. 

Portugal succeeded because they realized people were dying of tainted drugs. That’s the issue.

Why it Worked in Spain: 

Technically, the Spanish haven’t decriminalized drugs. But depending on the region, like Catalonia, they’re very open about it.

Spain has needle exchange programs, safe injection sites, and drug education programs. They even have cannabis social clubs, which are private non-profit organizations where members can meet to grow and consume cannabis. 

Why it Worked in Switzerland: 

Again, technically, the Swiss haven’t decriminalized. But like Spain or B.C. before January 31st, decriminalization is the unnamed de facto policy. 

They have a network of facilities where people can access clean needles, medication-assisted treatment, and other health services. The Swiss also have a heroin-assisted treatment program where patients with severe heroin dependency can access high-quality heroin under medical supervision.

Why it Hasn’t Worked in Oregon: 

With successful European examples, it’s obvious why Oregon has failed spectacularly (and why B.C. is posed to repeat the same mistakes).

  1. Not addressing the root causes of drug dependency, such as poverty, trauma, or the perceived benefit they derive from chronic use.
  2. Lack of safe supply

Because Orgeon didn’t meet these two conditions, their decriminalization of drugs hasn’t stopped the increase in drug overdoses.

Some critics also argue that Oregon hasn’t addressed the racial disparities in drug enforcement, which is likely the most damaging aspect of the drug war (and also one of the most profitable). This brings us to #4.

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #4: End the Drug War

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #4: End the Drug War

Critics of B.C. decriminalization say it won’t work because police are losing tools to fight the drug war. But do these critics not realize that B.C. police lobbied for this?

Are police losing the ability to arrest people for simple possession of meth or heroin and put them before a criminal court? Yes, they are. But when was the last time the Vancouver or Victoria police departments did this?

Critics will argue that sometimes these “addicts” commit other crimes to support their drug habit. But that answers itself. It doesn’t matter if you’re violating property rights to support a drug habit, because you’re bored, or even to distribute goods among the poor.

Property rights are sacrosanct. Following this to its logical conclusion, what kind of country makes someone a criminal for simply possessing methamphetamine?

The war on drugs is a war on people.

(That said, I can see B.C. tribunals giving a free pass to property-violating drug users because they have a “mental health” issue that needs treatment, not imprisonment. Obviously, this is one surefire way to make sure B.C. decriminalization does not work). 

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #3: One Step Closer to Legalization

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work One Step Closer to Legalization

Critics say B.C.’s decriminalization will make it easier for drug dealers. And indeed, one of the consequences of Britain’s decriminalization of cannabis was a lot more dime-bags floating around the streets than Qs and Ps.

But this parallels with the point above: the war on drugs is a war on people. Drug dealers come in two types: your petty criminal looking to make a buck and your entrepreneur who genuinely loves drugs.

Cannabis legalization, in theory, was supposed to separate these two groups. Many expected legalization to welcome the entrepreneurs of B.C. Bud into the mainstream. But this was not to be. All cannabis activism was “organized crime” until further notice.

In the post-legalization environment, politicians and the corporate press have favoured the peaceful members of Canada’s “illicit” underground cannabis community. The language has evolved from combative to “how can we get these people licensed and paying taxes?”

We’re still a long way off from a free-and-fair cannabis market. Excise taxes, for example, still favour the big guys over the smaller producers.

And now we’re posed to make the same mistakes with other drugs? B.C. decriminalization could work if we:

a) don’t listen to liberals, 

b) don’t listen to conservatives.

We need a third approach, which brings us to the following:

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #2: De-stigmatization

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work De-stigmatization

De-stigmatization is the stated goal of B.C.’s decriminalization of drugs. This refers to reducing or eliminating the negative societal and cultural perceptions and judgments associated with drug use.

I don’t have to remind you that drug use has long been stigmatized, with users often labelled immoral, sick, criminal, or deviant.

Even among cannabis connoisseurs, some of us have a drug-war belief that cannabis is a “soft” drug that’s safe to use, while heroin is a “hard” drug that should be avoided.

De-stigmatizing drugs means shifting the narrative from shame, guilt, and punishment to one that emphasizes… well, what, exactly?

If you talk to conservatives, de-stigmatization is precisely the problem of B.C.’s decriminalization. Drugs like heroin, cocaine, meth, or MDMA should be stigmatized. Like we’ve done with cigarettes or drinking and driving. 

Since they associate all drug use with problematic drug use, they see the stated goal of decriminalization as the problem. 

But liberals are also wrong about this. They think the stigma of drug use is the only reason addicts don’t seek help. They also associate all drug use with problematic drug use. Ergo, drug users need understanding, compassion, and treatment.

The result? Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is like declaring a place a “gun-free zone” and then getting shocked and angry when a mass shooting happens.

B.C. Decriminalization: How about a third option?

There is a third option. Where what I do with my body is my choice. Where what I do in the privacy of my home concerns no one else.

Drugs have legitimate medical and recreational uses. Drugs should not be automatically criminalized or marginalized.

Even a term like “harm reduction” contains drug war propaganda. When it comes to driving, do you wear a seat belt? Do you rotate your tires? Check your oil?

Do you consider this regular car maintenance or a “harm reduction” strategy?

Drugs are like extreme sports. They can be dangerous activities that not everyone enjoys. We need well-established rules and customs about these fun, hazardous activities.

Labelling drug users as criminals or having mental health issues obscures the reality that most drug use is non-problematic. Just like most gun use is non-violent.

The media focuses on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside because it’s a simple narrative. 

Like calling for gun control after a school shooting, people are having knee-jerk reactions to the growing number of drug overdoses.

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #1: A Private, Safe Supply of Drugs 

How B.C. Decriminalization Could Work #1: A Private, Safe Supply of Drugs
Photo credit: Trey Patric Helten

When asked why he wouldn’t decriminalize cannabis while Canadians waited for legalization, Justin Trudeau said that “the fact of the matter” is decriminalization “actually gives a legal stream of income to criminal organizations.”

He called it a “bad idea.” In 2016 he told News 1130 that decriminalization “doesn’t do anything in terms of keeping the black market and the criminal organizations from profiting from it. That’s why I believe in control and regulation that actually will do the protection of public safety and of minors that we need.”

So why is that true for cannabis but not opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA?

Liberals, of course, have a solution: a taxpayer-funded safe supply. Just another way the drug war lines the pockets of large pharmaceutical companies.

Who do you think is supplying Methadone or Buprenorphine to these sites? We pay for it as taxpayers, and they profit from it. 

Conservatives have every reason to oppose safe-supply sites envisioned by “progressive” liberals. Why listen to those who can’t comprehend solutions that don’t involve the use of tax dollars?

Yes, There can be a Safe Supply of Drugs

Of course, some critics take it a step further. They don’t oppose taxpayer-funded safe supply sites. They oppose the very idea of a “safe” supply of drugs. Because opioids can cause respiratory depression, opioids are, by definition, unsafe.

I wonder how many of them extend the same logic to alcohol. Drinking a litre of Crown Royal in one sitting can kill you. Ergo, there is no safe amount of whiskey, right?

Why or why not? 

Why can’t we mimic the regulatory regimes of alcohol, cannabis or nicotine when it comes to opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA?

The B.C. Coroners Service has consistently reported that it is the toxicity of these drugs that is causing overdoses and deaths.

The problem is tainted drugs. That’s what Portugal understood and what Oregon ignored.

People are buying MDMA mixed with opioids. People are unknowingly ingesting large amounts of fentanyl. The solution? Legalize it so they can buy a regulated, labelled fentanyl or MDMA pill at the store as we do with cannabis or alcohol. 

B.C. Decriminalization? Drugs Are Bad, Mmmky.

Drugs Are Bad, Mmmky.

I’ve provided five ways how B.C. decriminalization could work. Ultimately, the goal should be a private, legal supply.

That is, legalization.

Conservatives and liberals associate all drug use with problematic drug use. Conservatives want to keep the stigma attached because public shaming is a useful tool. Just ask unmasked Canadians how they felt going to the grocery store in 2020-21.

Liberals want to remove the stigma because drug use is a “mental health issue” requiring compassion and taxpayers forking money to government bureaucracies.

This third libertarian option is the only one that respects a person’s bodily autonomy and property rights. Liberals recognize part of this principle with abortion, and conservatives fully recognize this principle regarding guns or vaccine mandates.

I don’t need to tell you that people enjoy alcohol or cannabis while maintaining a productive and peaceful life. They go to work, support their families, and pay taxes. Opioids and amphetamines are no different.

Ironic that it’s the sober ones who are out of their minds. 

But What About Downtown Eastside Vancouver?

But What About Downtown Eastside Vancouver?

Okay, drug use is justified based on a fundamental principle that nobody should aggress against anyone else. If I’m using cannabis in my home, that’s my business. But if I’m stealing to support a cannabis habit, I’ve broken the law and am a criminal.

Am I more willing to break the law because I’m “addicted” to cannabis? Maybe not for cannabis. But people will argue with a straight face that heroin or cocaine are more “addictive” than cannabis.

There is no evidence to support this. “Addiction” is a social construct—a popular myth reinforced by bad science. 

The problem with Downtown Eastside isn’t drugs. It’s poverty, mental illness, trauma, and lack of support. It’s a complex problem requiring a variety of different, individual solutions.

Drugs are not the problem. Drugs are a pursuit of happiness for people who otherwise don’t have much joy in their lives. Singling out their drug use as the core problem is confusing cause and effect.

Homelessness, poverty, and violent crime are problems exacerbated by governments. Instead of owning up to their incompetence, they’re blaming drugs. But only useful idiots parrot drug war propaganda.

Please don’t be one of them.