Vancouver has made a giant step ahead within the doable decriminalization of medicine.
Last week, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart introduced the cities intention to hunt go away from the federal authorities to approve a plan to decriminalize easy possession of illicit medication inside metropolis limits. Stewart described these kind of offenses as a well being subject, quite than a legal justice subject. He additionally talked concerning the stigma related to substance misuse and the necessity to change our views on this conduct as a necessary step within the struggle in opposition to opioid overdoses.
If the plan receives federal approval, will probably be the primary jurisdiction within the nation to formally decriminalize the straightforward possession of medicine.
However, the authorized mechanics round this plan is not going to be so reduce and dry.
First, there may be the query of what precisely can be decriminalized, and in what quantities. The scope of the appliance may embrace a lot of completely different categorized substances, and whether or not our municipal authorities needs to deal with all of them equally is a query that they should severely ponder.
Then there are the logistics. There are some nonetheless motions which can should be formally authorized on a municipal degree earlier than the federal software course of may even go forward. After that, the federal authorities might want to agree. It should make an exemption underneath the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which is a activity which will sound simpler than it’s.
If all of it goes easily and in accordance with plan, it may take months – if not years – to implement this proposal.
Even nonetheless, although, it’s a welcome transfer which is best late than by no means.
The opioid disaster is actual, and it’s severe. It has claimed the lives of greater than 1,500 individuals since our province declared a public well being emergency again in April of 2016. The COVID-19 pandemic has solely exasperated the already dire state of affairs for a lot of already scuffling with dependancy points, amongst different issues.
In reality, lives claimed by the COVID-19 pandemic pale compared to these taken by opioids on this metropolis. The variety of opioid overdose deaths in Vancouver to date this 12 months has been about double the variety of COVID-19 deaths. A jarring actuality made all of the extra jarring on account of stigmatization, over-policing, an absence of help, and – finally – criminalization.
It is a harsh actuality that any exercise that’s criminalized will finally change into stigmatized. In some instances, that is helpful. In others, nevertheless, it isn’t.
The stigmatization of drug use does harm. It creates disgrace, isolation, and marginalization. It is a well being subject that can not be correctly addressed or handled by the police state or the legal justice system.
Decriminalizing easy possession is more likely to scale back marginalization for addicts and others who use illicit substances. It could encourage those that are struggling to hunt therapy. It may encourage others to entry different sources of group help and sources, aimed toward mitigating the inherent dangers related to illicit drug use.
It will assist convey this subject out of the shadows and correctly re-frame it as a group well being subject, quite than remoted legal actions.
And that is even regardless of the truth that our municipal police forces have been treating easy drug possession offenses with leniency for fairly a while.
Although the Vancouver Police Department maintains that their officers haven’t been implementing legal guidelines round easy drug possession for a lot of years now, decriminalization will make a distinction even nonetheless. After all, the mere existence of such legal guidelines, no matter whether or not they’re being actively enforced or not, is damaging for a lot of concrete causes.
Popular notion and opinions about drug use apart, it’s no secret that particular person officers are in a position to act in accordance with their discretion. Some could use present legal legal guidelines as a foundation to cease, query, or detain people. Visible minorities, unhoused individuals, and people who are racialized are extra steadily focused by police for such functions. Moreover, a lot of individuals are nonetheless charged with crimes tangentially associated to the offense of straightforward drug possession, which may have an institutionalizing impact on drug customers.
As different jurisdictions within the worldwide group transfer in direction of the decriminalization of private drug use, Vancouver is ripe to observe swimsuit. As the town notorious for having the poorest postal code in Canada, and for being the epicenter of the opioid disaster, we should take motion and set an instance on this subject.
It is step one – of many – in the suitable route.
What are your ideas on the mayor’s proposition? Let us know within the feedback under.