Vancouver seeks decriminalisation of the simple possession of drugs

Insite, Safe Injection Facility
Insite, Vancouver's first legal supervised consumption site. Insite operates under a Health Canada exemption from prosecution under federal drug laws; if the proposed motion is passed, Vancouver will seek a similar exemption for the entire city. - Photo courtesy Vancouver Coastal Health
Laurence Gatinel - CFRO - VancouverBC | 19-11-2020

By Tan Mei Xi
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Vancouver is considering a proposal to decriminalise the possession of drugs within the city.

Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart announced in a press conference on Wednesday that he will put forward a motion to apply to the federal Ministers of Health, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Justice and Attorney General to request a federal exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize personal possession of illicit substances within the City’s boundaries.

The motion will be debated by City Council on Tuesday.

Journalist Travis Lupick noted in the Globe and Mail that if implemented without comprehensive engagement with substance users, decriminalisation can have unintended detrimental consequences. For example, said Lupick, if fines are handed out to substance users who are unable to pay them, the substance users may be imprisoned for their inability to pay the fines.

According to Georgia Straight reporter Charlie Smith, the idea of applying for a federal exemption was first proposed by PIVOT Legal Society lawyer, Caitlin Shane. PIVOT Legal released a report in September calling on the City of Vancouver to apply for the federal exemption.

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Also on the show, Tan Mei Xi talks with Karen Mitchell, of UBC's School of Nursing, about Bill 22. The NDP's proposed bill would allow for youth to be detained in a medical facility if they've overdosed. The two discuss the strong criticism the proposed bill has received.

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