What's happeningExemption to decriminalize possession of some illegal drugs for personal use
The Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health granted a three-year exemption under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to remove criminal penalties for people who possess a small amount of certain illicit substances for personal use in the Province of British Columbia.
We recognize that substance use and the overdose crisis are a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. Continuing to criminalize people who use drugs further contributes to substance use stigma that prevents people from seeking life saving services, care, or support. Decriminalizing possession may also reduce the seizure of small amounts of drugs that often force individuals into risky behaviours to replace illicit substances.
Decriminalization is part of a comprehensive strategic effort to respond to the overdose crisis, which has taken the lives of more than 2,386 people in Vancouver over the last five years. It is our hope that the provincial exemption will help reduce stigma related to substance use, increase access to health services, and decrease harms related to criminalization.
We will be working with our partners to assess the impacts of decriminalization in Vancouver. We will continue to participate in the provincial government’s process to in implement and evaluate decriminalization across the province, and will continue to advocate for and bring insights to the Vancouver context.
We continue to wait for a response from Health Canada regarding our Vancouver-specific section 56 exemption application and proposed Vancouver Model to decriminalize illicit substances across the city. Given that the city-wide exemption is still pending, Health Canada has decided not to fund our proposal to implement and evaluate decriminalization in Vancouver at this time, submitted through the Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP).
Provincial Health Officer declares a public health emergency.
City Council unanimously passes a motion to ask the federal government to decriminalize the simple possession of illicit drugs in Vancouver by seeking an exemption from the CDSA under the provision of section 56(1).
Health Canada agrees to begin formal discussions with the City regarding decriminalization.
The City puts forward a preliminary submission to Health Canada seeking an exemption.
The City provided an updated submission to Health Canada that outlines proposed threshold levels.
April and May 2021
Public engagement is conducted to discuss risks and mitigation strategies for this work.
Late May 2021
The City provides the final submission to Health Canada that outlines in detail the proposed model and the context and rationale that has shaped it, as well as letters of support for the model, and the implementation plan for if an exemption is granted.
Late May 31, 2022
The Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health grant a three-year exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to remove criminal penalties for people who possess a small amount of certain illicit substances for personal use in BC.