In an unprecedented move in Canadian history, on Wednesday the Vancouver city council voted to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of all illicit drugs. Once it is approved by the federal government, the motion will be the first of its kind in Canada, following in the recent footsteps of Oregon, the first US state to decriminalize small amounts of all drugs.
The vote to decriminalize comes as a bid to ease B.C’s escalating overdose problem, made worse by the pandemic. In 2016, Vancouver declared the drug crisis a public health emergency and has lost over 6,000 people to overdoses since, with 2020 being the worst year yet. In a statement made after the vote, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart stressed the importance of the policy in Vancouver.
“Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives. If approved by the federal government, we will begin a robust process to determine how decriminalization will be implemented in Vancouver.”– Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver, Canada.
The decision will be welcomed by experts in the drug and addiction field, who believe that breaking down the barriers to accessing drugs is imperative for users. Not only does decriminalizing minimize the stigma around illicit drugs, but it also encourages users to seek medical treatment without fear of criminal charges.
Decriminalization of all illicit drugs in Vancouver is still at least a few months away as the mayor still needs to receive an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. He will also be urging other municipalities in the province to pursue action to decriminalize the possession of personal drugs.
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