Vancouver approves motion to seek exemption to decriminalize illicit drug possession

Nov 25 2020, 8:01 pm

Vancouver City Council unanimously voted Wednesday evening to approve a motion asking the federal government to allow them an exemption to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all illicit drugs in the city.

The motion was put forward by Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who said he’s grateful for council’s support on health-focused drug policy.

“On the same day that the BC Coroners Service confirmed that a person-a-day continues to die in our city due to drug overdose, Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives,” he said in a statement.

If Vancouver’s request is approved by the federal government, the city will bring a “robust process” to determine how decriminalization in the city would work, Stewart said.

Should Ottawa give its stamp of approval, Vancouver would become the first Canadian jurisdiction to decriminalize the personal possession of illicit substances. There have been more than 1,500 overdose fatalities in the city since 2016.

Several local organizations have advocated for this for a long time, and some of them praised council’s decision on Twitter.

The Vancouver City Council vote happened during the same month that Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of illicit drugs, becoming the first US state to do so.

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