British Columbia has announced major changes to its drug decriminalization policy, rolling back provisions that removed criminal penalties and police involvement for illicit drug use in many outdoor spaces.pushback from municipalities that expressed concern over public drug use, with some having enacted local bylaws to restrict it.
Under the proposed legislation, police would be able to direct those using drugs in these places to stop, or move along. If they don’t comply, officers could seize their substances and arrest them. It would also require local governments to consult with their regionalIn announcing the legislation on Thursday, Premiersaid it is widely recognized that arresting and punishing people for their addictions doesn’t work.
Since then, some municipalities have expressed that they are ill-equipped to respond to the policy change at a local level. Several – including Campbell River, Port Coquitlam, Kamloops, Prince George, Sicamous, Penticton and Kelowna – moved to introduce their own local bylaws banning drug use in public spaces, creating what some had described as a patchwork approach to the issue.
“We know that the housing crisis is growing, we know that people who use drugs are disproportionately likely to be evicted, and are unable to regularly access things like shelters and services,” they said. “This represents a deliberate targeting of people who live at intersections of housing precarity, poverty and risk from the unregulated drug supply.”
At last month’s Union of BC Municipalities convention in Vancouver, representatives from smaller communities expressed support in principle for decriminalization but said they didn’t have the funding or support to successfully implement it at a local level.
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