The federal government has announced that starting early next year, British Columbia will be the first province in Canada to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use.
The decision comes after the B.C. government requested an exemption under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which makes it an offence to possess most controlled substances.
On Nov. 1, as the toxic drug crisis intensified, the province asked the federal government to decriminalize up to 4.5 grams of drugs for personal use in B.C. The exemption that’s been granted is for a smaller amount, and is cumulative for all illicit drugs on the person.
B.C. adults found to be carrying up to 2.5 grams of certain drugs including opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine will not be subject to arrest or charges, and the drugs won’t be seized.
Instead, police will provide information on available services and, if requested, support in connecting with those services.
The personal-use exemption applies to all adults 18 years and older within the jurisdictional boundaries of B.C., except on elementary and secondary school grounds, on the premises of licensed child-care facilities, in airports, and on Canadian Coast Guard vessels and helicopters.
It will be in place starting Jan. 31, 2023 and expire on Jan. 31, 2026, unless it is revoked or replaced by another exemption before that date.
Health Canada says the province of B.C. will use the eight months leading up to the start of the exemption to speak to impacted groups and train law enforcement.
Possession for the purpose of trafficking, production or export of any of the drugs listed under the exemption is still illegal, no matter the amount.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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