Last Wednesday, Vancouver City Council unanimously voted on a plan to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all illicit drugs, from heroin to methamphetamine, to help stem the growing overdose crisis in British Columbia.
The city would become the first in Canada to decriminalize illicit substances while awaiting federal approval. Following Oregon which, became the first U.S. state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all drugs.
Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way in drug policy to save lives,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who introduced the decriminalization motion. If approved by the federal government, we will begin a robust process to determine how decriminalization will be implemented in Vancouver.
Before the city can implement decriminalization, the Mayor will have to submit a formal request to the federal Ministers of Health and Justice to receive a special exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Approval of this exemption may take several months.
At the same time, the Mayor of Vancouver announced that he would write to other municipal governments in British Columbia to urge them to file their federal exemptions and decriminalize personal possession of drugs.
At least 1,536 people in Vancouver and more than 5,000 people in British Columbia have died of overdose since the province declared the opiate crisis a “public health emergency.