Understanding BC’s Decriminalized Drug Law 2023

by | Jan 30, 2023 | Drug & Related Offences

Decriminalization of drugs is a topic that has been gaining traction in recent years. Many countries and cities are looking to explore new ways to address issues related to drug addiction and the criminal justice system.

As of January 31, 2023, British Columbia’s new drug decriminalization law will begin. It will essentially make possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs for personal use no longer a criminal offence. Health Canada has granted this exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for three years until January 31, 2026.

The new law will be an important step in the fight against the toxic drug crisis that the province is facing. This will help reduce barriers and shame and assist people with obtaining support and services that could save their lives.

In this post, we will discuss how decriminalization will help reduce drug harms and provide a way for British Columbia to work towards ending the overdose crisis.

What does the decriminalization of drugs mean?

The decriminalization of drugs is an alternative response to criminal penalties for simple possession.

This means that individuals who are found in possession of small amounts of certain drugs will not be charged with fines or imprisonment. They will instead be redirected to healthcare and support services that can help with their addiction and other related issues.

As of January 31, 2023, to January 31, 2026, the government of British Columbia will decriminalize the possession of certain illegal drugs for personal use without arrest, seizure, or charge.

Adults with 2.5 grams or less of certain drugs for personal use will not be arrested or charged or have their drugs taken from them.

The illegal drugs in question are:

  • opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and fentanyl
  • crack and powder cocaine
  • methamphetamine
  • MDMA

The criminalization of drugs results in significant harm to people, particularly to those who are homeless, experiencing mental health issues, racialized, or Indigenous.

The government will instead offer help by giving information about where to access health and support services, including local recovery and treatment services.

Why did British Columbia decriminalize drugs?

British Columbia is decriminalizing certain drugs to better help a vulnerable population.

The new law will shift the focus of the criminal justice system away from punishment and towards rehabilitation and harm reduction. The main goal is to reduce the amount of people who are incarcerated for drug offences and provide them with the support they need to overcome their addiction and improve their overall health and well-being.

Decriminalization puts British Columbia in a better position to help people who use drugs seek the necessary treatment and begin to improve their quality of life and overall health.

The war on drugs still has a way to go. Some people fear that decriminalization may increase drug use or continue to encourage it, but that idea is not supported by evidence. There is proof from many countries and cities worldwide that decriminalized drugs do not increase use. 

By eliminating a criminalized response to drug possession, British Columbia is hoping to take a stand in the fight against the toxic drug crisis the province is in. Decriminalizing small amounts of these drugs will hopefully help keep people alive and able to connect with life-saving support and other services available.

Why does the decriminalization of drugs work?

The reason why the decriminalization of drugs works is that it begins the necessary step in reducing fear and shame in people who use illicit substances.”Substance use is a public health issue, not a criminal one,” said Sheila Malcolmson, BC’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

Eliminating the criminal penalties for the possession of 2.5 grams or less of illegal drugs in British Columbia removes the barriers that stop people from accessing harm reduction services or treatment programs available.

The decriminalization of drugs works by ensuring the province is working with a broad range of partners to implement this policy change. This will include the federal government, health authorities, Indigenous partners, law enforcement, and community organizations.

Finding help for drug addiction in Vancouver, British Columbia

BC is the first province to receive this exemption from Health Canada. This exemption is a first step in transforming its mental health and substance use services under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The decriminalization of drugs in Vancouver will allow individuals who want to seek treatment and recovery from drugs to access a variety of helpful services.

The surge in overdose deaths in Vancouver peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic. This exemption will be a very important step in how we look at addiction and drug use.

A key component of the new law is the establishment of a community -based support services. These services will help individuals who are struggling with addiction to access the care and support they need to overcome their addiction and improve their overall health. This support could include counselling, therapy, medication-assisted treatment, or other basic needs such as housing and employment.

Support and compassion are essential for healing and treatment. For increasing access to health and social services for people who use drugs in Vancouver, BC, there is a range of services and resources for the healing journey:

Contact an experienced Criminal Lawyer

The decriminalization of drugs is a topic that our lawyers can help you to fully understand. If you are in need of a good criminal defense attorney, we can help. Read this article on how to find one

At Mickelson & Whysall, we have experience with drug possession cases. To find out more about how we can assist you, contact us now and speak to one of our knowledgeable lawyers.