Practical Drug Decriminalization in British Columbia

Earlier this week, Pivot Legal Society released a letter and position paper to friends and supporters regarding drug decriminalization in BC.

Excerpt, letter to supporters: 

Saturday, August 31, marked International Overdose Awareness Day: a day of mourning on which we recognize the grief and loss felt by communities impacted by overdose and the War on Drugs. In BC, we are over 3 years into a public health emergency. Pivot and the communities we work alongside are tired.

For over 100 years, drug policy has been informed by stigma, racism, and poor-bashing. In September 1908 the Opium Act came into effect and Canadian drug prohibition was born. 111 years later – the War on Drugs rages on. In recent years, governments at every level have taken up the language of “public health” in describing drug use and the opioid crisis. But merely changing the discourse means little without concrete changes to the network of laws, policies, and practices that continue to criminalize people who use drugs. We want action, not finger-pointing: Changes are possible, but a lack of political will stands in the way.

In light of continuing regressive policy, Pivot has authored a position paper on practical drug decriminalization in BC. The Province has significant powers to address the enforcement of existing federal drug laws: As our position paper explains, BC can and must amend provincial policing legislation to divert police resources away from low-level drug law enforcement.

This paper is in direct response to the provincial government’s insistence that drug decriminalization is solely a federal issue. When Pivot and over 20 allied organizations recently called on Minister Mike Farnworth to push for effective decriminalization in BC [PAN is one of the supporters], we received the familiar response that the Province lacks jurisdiction to do so.


Excerpt, position paper:

BC cannot wait on the federal government to decriminalize simple possession. Effectively responding to the opioid crisis requires the Province to use its own power and immediately amend its policing legislation so that policing practices do not frustrate public health initiatives.The amendment recommended below re-focuses policing priorities and improves access to health services and resources. These are more than just ‘within the scope of’ the Province’s power: they are the Province’s responsibility.


Download the position paper

Learn more about Pivot Legal Society