More work needed on B.C.’s decriminalization plan, experts say

published on June 5, 2023 by Alexandra Mehl in CTV News Vancouver Island

In an attempt to combat stigmas and barriers associated with substance-use, the province has set out on a three-year project to decriminalize the personal use of drugs, allowing the small possession of certain illicit substances.

But with a death toll that has now amassed over 11,000 in the last seven years – with one thousand of those deaths reported as First Nations – some experts say decriminalization alone is not enough.

Jade Boyd is an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of British Columbia and a research scientist with the BC Center on Substance Use. He said it’s a common agreement among drug policy experts across the globe that criminalization paired with “harsh drug laws and policing under drug prohibition” causes a negative impact on health outcomes, disproportionately affecting poor and marginalized people.

“Punitive and prohibitive drug laws and policies; they create a lethal environment where an illegal drug market can exist,” said Boyd. “It also creates stigma, violence, and human rights violations, including extreme barriers to health and social services.”…

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