Backtracking on drug decriminalization is politically cowardly – and illogical

published on May 22, 2024 by Manisha Krishnan in Globe and Mail

British Columbia’s three-year pilot project to decriminalize personal possession of drugs hadn’t even hit its halfway point when the province delivered a catastrophic blow to its own policy.

In January, 2023, the federal government created an exemption for B.C. to decriminalize drug use, allowing people to cumulatively carry up to 2.5 grams of drugs such as fentanyl, cocaine, and meth without being arrested. But earlier this month, Ottawa approved B.C.’s request to make public consumption a crime again.

One might assume the about-face is the result of mounting evidence linking decriminalization to spikes in overdoses and increases in violent crime. But as is too often the case with drug policy, the actual rationale boils down to bad-faith attacks and political cowardice.

In recent months, B.C. United MLAs have claimed that St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is grappling with “needles and broken crack pipes all over the floor,” citing reports of hospital staff dealing with exposure to drug use and blaming decriminalization for causing a “free for all.” Those reports were refuted by St. Paul’s addiction medicine physician Dr. Seonaid Nolan, who said the hospital isn’t facing a new rash of people getting high everywhere. Despite that, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix launched a task force to address illicit drug use in hospitals – something that was never made legal…

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