Reducing shame and fear associated with substance use

Last Fall, B.C. applied for an exemption from Health Canada to remove criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. Earlier this week, a 3-year exemption was granted and now adults who have 2.5 grams or less of the certain illicit substances for personal use will no longer be arrested, charged or have their drugs seized. Instead, police will offer information on available health and social supports and will help with referrals when requested.

Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Drugs will not be sold at regulated stores, and the trafficking of drugs will still be illegal. What it does mean is that people caught with small quantities for personal use will no longer be charged for possession. The risk of being arrested can lead to more people doing drugs alone. With the toxic supply of so much of the drugs, this can lead to people dying alone.

Substance use and addiction is a health care issue, not a criminal one. By decriminalizing people who use drugs, we can help reduce the shame and fear that prevents them from accessing treatment and support.