A federal exemption has allowed this Canadian province to decriminalize not only small amounts of MDMA (ecstasy) but opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
History will certainly regard Canada not to mention this period of time as a forerunner in the new wave of drug legalization. First, there was cannabis. Then the discussion about other psychedelics like psilocybin began to bloom (and in multiple places). Now, British Columbia has announced that all “hard” drugs will be decriminalized in the province.
This is not a federal, but state decision. There won’t be any formal infrastructure set up. One cannot obtain any of these drugs via legal brick and mortars set up by the government to dispense the same. However, people will no longer be arrested for possessing under 2.5 grams of any of these substances.
The Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Carolyn Bennett, said that the move by the province was in line with a federal priority to curtail opioid deaths. BC had 2,224 drug overdose deaths last year. Those statistics have also gone in absolutely the wrong direction since 2016. 10,000 people have died since 2016.
This new “exemption” begins at the end of January next year and runs until January 2026, unless extended further – or – depending on results – canceled.
Loopholes and Semantics?
It is not like other countries have not tried this approach before. See Portugal and Holland – for starters. Both of these countries have had mixed results.
In Portugal, all drugs were legalized after the repressive regime of Franco ended. That said, Portuguese law has also rolled back some of these “freedoms” based on their impact on public health. Today, the country has one of the most exciting cannabis cultivation markets in Europe.
In Holland, the famous laissez-faire attitude toward soft drug use created the first modern cannabis industry in the world that was at least widely tolerated if not always enthusiastically so. This is still true today, no matter how much there also seems to be a trend to reinvent the cannabis industry domestically.
However, there is another discussion now floating about the room – starting in Mexico but also showing up in places like London if not Austria of late. Namely that this kind of petty interdiction is expensive, not to mention tends to unfairly impact certain demographics. Plus of course, has constitutional implications.
At a time when the expenses incurred by governments in the name of public health have exploded, and Pandemic-related measures have infringed on personal liberties more than they have since the last global pandemic a century ago, it may be that simple issues like decrim are par for the course in a new post Pandemic era.