Decriminalize Yourself

april 24 2019:

clip courtesy of cbc vancouver On The Coast

Listen to the clip.

Dr Bonnie Henry, BC’s Provincial Health Officer’s released a Special Report, Stopping the Harm: Decriminalizing People Who Use Drugs. Below is the formal recommendation, quoted below in full.


As the Provincial Health Officer of BC, I recommend that the Province of BC urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

Decriminalization is an evidence-based approach to drug policy that is effective in reducing harms related to substance use when reinforced with complementary measures of harm reduction, prevention, enforcement, social support, and treatment.

Redirecting police time and resources away from the enforcement of simple possession offences reduces barriers, including fear and
stigma, and facilitates a linkage to treatment and harm reduction services.

There is precedent for this in other jurisdictions (e.g., Portugal), with evidence of success that can be applied and leveraged in BC. Specifically, criteria can be determined for (a) the threshold amount
of substance that can be possessed for personal use; (b) assessment of appropriate penalties; (c) how to offer and connect people to treatment; and (d) when the case should be referred to criminal court. In BC, local assessment committees could be established in each health service delivery area, with an option for those living in rural and remote areas to access the committee via teleconference or video conference.

I advise the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to engage with the Attorney General and the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to determine how BC can move to decriminalize people in possession of illegal drugs for personal use, using the discretionary powers vested in public safety officials and the policy role of the Director of Police Services.

Please see the next post for analysis.