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Vancouver mayor wants feds to decriminalize simple drug possession

Last Updated Nov 18, 2020 at 3:38 pm PST

Summary

Vancouver's mayor wants Ottawa to decriminalize the simple possession of illegal drugs in the city

Kennedy Stewart wants the federal government to give Vancouver an exempt in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

If approved, Vancouver would be the first city in Canada to have such an exemption

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The mayor of Vancouver will be calling on the federal government to decriminalize simple possession of illegal drugs in the city.

If Kennedy Stewart is successful, Vancouver would become the first Canadian city to get the nod.

“My plan would see Vancouver lead the way as the first Canadian jurisdiction to decriminalize personal possession of illicit substances,” Stewart writes. “Decriminalization is an urgent and necessary next step backed by Premier John Horgan, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly.”

Stewart says decriminalizing simple possession of drugs would go a long way to addressing the opioid overdose problem — something he says needs to be treated with a health-focused approach instead of a criminal one.

The mayor’s proposal will first go to council. If approved, Stewart plans to direct the city to pen a letter to federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, and Justice and Attorney General David Lemetti to request a federal exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

This move would allow the city to decriminalize the personal possession of illicit substances within its boundaries for medical purposes.

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Stewart’s proposal has received the support of advocates from the Overdose Prevention Society, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Vancouver’s police chief, as well as the PIVOT Legal Society.

B.C. declared a public health emergency in the spring of 2016 due to the rising number of overdose deaths.

This year, Vancouver estimates there have been 328 overdose deaths in the city so far.

Vancouver became the first city in the country to get a Health Canada exemption to open up a supervised injection site back in 2003.