Removing the Stick
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The western Canadian province of British Columbia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of hard drugs on Tuesday, in a radical policy shift to address an opioid crisis that has killed thousands, CBS News reported.
The new policy means that adults found with up to 2.5 grams of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and other hard drugs won’t face jail time or fines, but will instead be directed toward addiction treatment programs, CBC reported.
Police will also not seize the drugs.
Distributors of hard drugs though will continue to face criminal prosecution.
“The situation has never been more urgent,” Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett said. “The effects of this public health crisis have devastated communities across British Columbia and across Canada.”
British Columbia is at the epicenter of a crisis that has seen more than 10,000 overdose deaths since 2016, when the province already declared a public health emergency.
Officials hope the change in policy will remove the stigma associated with drug use and allow addicts to seek help.
Canada has spent more than $600 million to try to mitigate the opioid crisis, including on addiction treatment, Naloxone supplies and supervised drug consumption sites across Canada.