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BC Health officer calls for urgent decriminalization of illicit drug possession

Last Updated Apr 24, 2019 at 2:05 pm PDT

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presenting her report on decriminalizing drug users as a means of reducing harm from opioid overdoses. (Liza Yuzda/NEWS 1130 reporter)

B.C.'s top doctor is releasing a report that takes a harder look at the opioid crisis

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current drug laws stigmatize people living with addiction

The report says decriminalization of illicit drug possession would help mitigate B.C.'s overdose crisis

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Our province’s top doctor is calling for an end of criminal penalties for people who use drugs.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has released a report finding our drug laws stigmatize people living with addiction, which she calls a health condition.

According to the report, existing laws on illicit drug possession, encourage people to hide drug usage and often prevents them from seeking treatment.

RELATED: Front-line workers seeing more toxic additives as B.C.’s opioid emergency enters year four

“What I’m looking for with this is a culture change,” Henry says, noting this approach will allow resources to be focussed where they’ll work.

“The other part about decriminalization is the stigma and shame that comes with that tag that keeps young people, particularly young men we know, using alone and not having somebody there to call 911 or to administer naloxone,” she adds.

Even though drug laws are federal, Henry says there is a way to work around them provincially.

It’s been just over three years since the now former BC Liberal government declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in this province.

-With files from Martin MacMahon