Canada Moves to Decriminalize Possession of ‘Hard’ Drugs
Some think the welcomed legislation is still too conservative
On May 31, 2022, the Canadian government made a ruling that was the first of its kind for the country. Starting on Jan. 31, 2023, the province of British Columbia will conduct a trial—lasting three years—in which people over the age of 18 will be able to possess up to 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA without arrest, seizure or charge. Canada joins a handful of countries with existing decriminalization policies; others include Portugal, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the United States (Oregon decriminalized possessing small amounts of hard drugs back in 2020).
A decriminalized drug resides in a constitutional no-man’s land, neither legal nor illegal. The policy essentially entails that possession won’t result in handcuffs and that a substance use disorder won’t be treated as a crime.
“This is long overdue,” said Daniel Werb, director of the Center on Drug Policy Evaluation at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “This is something that people have understood for a really long time—that you can’t arrest your way out of this problem.”
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