WATCH: Kelowna mom speaks to illicit drug decriminalization

Moms Stop the Harm says more needs to be done

  • 2.5 grams will be limit for possession
  • Should ‘help bring users out of the shadows’
  • Next step is ensuring safe supply

A mother and advocate for harm reduction and the end to stigma, is pleased about changes coming that will decriminalize some illicit drug use. But she says more needs to be done, especially to address the deadly toxic supply.

Helen Jennens from Moms Stop the Harm, who lost two of her sons to substance use, said she’s glad the federal and provincial governments have recognized decriminalization is necessary but said the amount threshold is too low for some users.

Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Carolyn Bennett, has granted B.C. a three-year exemption to decriminalize possession of 2.5 grams or less of certain substances for adults over 18, starting in January 2023.

Those drugs include opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy.

“I’m a little bit disheartened by the threshold of 2.5 grams… but it’s a bit of a win and we will take it,” Jennens told Kelowna10. “I really wish we weren’t waiting until January before this goes into effect, a lot happens in our province in six months.”

Jennens said decriminalization is important for opening up the conversation around drug use and hopefully steering users towards some form of recovery.

“It brings people out of the shadows and people are using alone and dying because they’re so afraid of being criminalized and this way, that will stop,” she said.

However, she thinks people under the age of 18 should also avoid being charged if in possession, as it doesn’t protect young people who are using. She’s also worried about the three-year time limit that has been put on the exemption.

“We haven’t done much to protect them because we know kids are using, juveniles are using,” Jennens said. “In three years will they just say, ‘well we tried it in B.C., and it didn’t work,’ and that’s the end of it?”

The new laws will be constantly monitored and adapted if necessary. People will no longer be arrested, charged, or have their drugs seized. Instead, police will offer information on available health and social supports and will help with referrals when requested.

For Jennens, the next step in addressing B.C.’s desperate and fatal drug crisis is combating the toxic supply through safe consumption sites. She said it doesn’t matter what the threshold is for decriminalization when the drugs being used are killing people due to the toxicity.

“We need to stop the deaths, that’s what we’re really after,” she said. “A dead drug user can never recover, so we need to provide a safe supply.”

Published 2022-06-01 by Jordan Brenda

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