B.C. applies to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs

·1 min read

VICTORIA — British Columbia is applying to the federal government to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson says substance use and addiction is a public health issue and not a criminal one, which is why the province believes removing possession penalties will help more people get the care they need.

Figures released in September from the BC Coroners Service show there were 1,204 deaths from illicit drugs between January and the end of July, a 28 per cent jump over the same period in 2020.

The coroner says the first seven months of this year were the deadliest since a health emergency was declared in 2016, and July was the 17th straight month in which more than 100 B.C. residents died from a toxic drug supply.

Last month, Toronto said it was also preparing to ask Health Canada for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs for personal use in the city, following a similar request made by Vancouver in May.

Toronto Public Health said a total of 521 confirmed opioid overdose deaths were recorded in the city last year, which represented a 78 per cent increase from deaths recorded in 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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