Toronto: Beginning on Tuesday, possession of small quantities of hard drugs will be decriminalised in the Canadian province of British Columbia, in a pilot project undertaken in coordination with federal health authorities.
The federal government is granting “a time-limited exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for adults” BC. From Tuesday till January 31, 2026, those aged 18 years or older within the province “will not be subject to criminal charges for the possession of small amounts of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA for personal use,” a statement from Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions said.
Jennifer Whiteside, BC’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions said, “Decriminalising people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving supports.”
These drugs are not legalised. However, those found in possession of a cumulative total of as much as 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA for personal use will no longer be arrested, charged or have their drugs seized, a release from the provincial government added.
Bennett added that the objective behind the scheme was to empower the province “with the ability to help divert people away from the criminal justice system and towards the health and social services they need”.
This measure comes amid a toxic drug crisis. Bennett’s statement pointed out that since 2016, more than 32,000 people have died of an overdose in Canada, with BC “severely impacted by overdose deaths and related harms”. According to the BC Coroners Service, 2,267 lives were lost to illicit drug toxicity in the province in 2021, the highest recorded death toll in a calendar year.
That toll reached 1,644 in the first nine months of 2022. “It’s clear that innovative solutions must be implemented in order to save lives,” she said.
This move comes after Canada became the first major nation to legalise use of cannabis in October 2018.