Advocate welcomes drug decriminalization but wants more to be done

Local advocate says more needs to be done to help those with substance use disorder.

  • B.C. first province to apply for decriminalization
  • Wants to establish threshold quantity of 4.5 g
  • A mother says more needs to be done

A mother and advocate who lost two of her sons to substance use, is excited to see a step forward in decriminalization, but says it’s only a half step.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions announced the B.C. government is applying to remove penalties for people who possess small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use.

However, Helen Jennens, from Moms Stop the Harm, said the cumulative amount that would be allowed is 4.5 grams and she thinks that isn’t enough.

“While it’s a good step, it’s just not quite enough and they need to go back to the table, talk to people in substance use disorder and find out the realities of 4.5 grams,” Jennens told Kelowna10, suggesting 4.5 grams may be too low a limit for certain users.

She said education is an important next step in helping destigmatize substance use.

“This isn’t a criminal problem, it’s not a moral issue, it’s a medical issue. So compassionately, we need to deal with it like we do any medical issue. We have to give people help,” Jennens said.

In making the announcement, Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions said the issue is a public health one, not a criminal one.

"B.C. is adding new health and substance-use care services almost weekly, but we know shame prevents many people from accessing life-saving care. That's why it's crucial to decriminalize people who use drugs," Malcolmson said.

The province is the first in Canada to seek exemption from Health Canada under Section 56(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The hope is that by treating substance use as a public health challenge rather than a criminal act, new pathways will be created to support those seeking treatment.

The government said decriminalization is a crucial component in ending the toxic drug crisis and Jennens said things have been getting done, but it’s not fast enough.

“We have made some headway, but this is urgently needed now with the death rate,” Jennens explained.

“We need it urgently. We can’t sit around and talk about it and not act. We have to act now.”

Published 2021-11-03 by Jordan Brenda

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