The BC government said today it will officially request a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize the personal possession of drugs in the province.
The request is part of an effort “to remove the shame” that often prevents people from reaching out for life-saving help, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.
“Stigma drives people to hide their drug use, avoid health care and use alone,” said Minister Sheila Malcolmson.
“Through province-wide decriminalization, we can reduce the fear and shame that keep people silent about their drug use, and support people to reach out for help, life-saving supports and treatment.”
In its announcement, the province said officials with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and Health Canada have been working on an agreement that outlines how the province will work with Health Canada to apply for a province-wide exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which governs simple drug possession.
Key issues for consideration are defining simple possession, determining allowable drug amounts and ensuring the readiness of law enforcement, health and social services to support decriminalization. Consultation with Indigenous partners, peers, law enforcement, municipalities and public health officials is being planned, as well.
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The province also said it is boosting funds to secure recently expanded overdose prevention services for people at high risk of overdose around BC, in the form of a $45-million investment over the next three years.
This investment will support people who use drugs by enabling health authorities to continue scaling up their regional overdose responses through new and expanded overdose prevention services.
Health authorities are also hiring new registered nurses who can prescribe addictions treatment medications, in addition to social workers and peer support workers for new and existing interdisciplinary outreach teams.