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Vancouver City Council unanimously supports motion to decriminalize possession of illicit drugs

Last Updated Nov 25, 2020 at 10:32 pm PDT

Summary

Vancouver City Council has taken a step towards decriminalizing simple possession of illicit drugs in the city

The motion is to ask the federal government for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

This would let people possess a small amount of illicit drugs in Vancouver and prevent them from being arrested

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver City Council has unanimously passed a motion asking the federal government to decriminalize the simple possession of all illicit drugs in Vancouver.

In the first steps to prevent people who possess a small amount of illicit drugs in Vancouver from being arrested, the city is asking the federal government to allow an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Councillor Pete Fry explains to NEWS 1130 the change could make a significant difference and save lives as B.C. continues to struggle with the overdose crisis.

“What we know is decriminalizing, trying to create more of an avenue to view people who use drugs and people who are addicted to drugs specifically as a health issue rather than as a criminal issue so it can ensure that we’re sort of faster-tracking people to appropriate health services and making sure that people aren’t — for instance — scared away from safe consumption, because they are afraid of being criminalized. So, it creates more opportunities for folks to visit overdose prevention sites. And it’ll hopefully open an avenue for us to get toxic drug supply away from people and get them more to a safe supply.”

RELATED: Five people dying every day from toxic illicit drugs in B.C.: Coroner

This year, the Vancouver Police have made over a dozen arrests for drug possession, according to Fry. And he adds VPD has also expressed the time police spent on policing drug possession is “not a great use of resources.”

“This is a step forward. I feel confident that the feds are interested in seeing this.”

If the exemption is approved, it will make Vancouver the first jurisdiction in all of Canada to decriminalize drug possession.

“I think we have a strong culture of support for a different way of doing things that we could, we could lead the country on this one,” Fry says.

If the federal government approves the motion, the council will determine how decriminalization will be implemented in the city.

The process will involve the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health, the Vancouver Police Department, community groups and advocates.

Wednesday’s motion comes as the latest data from the B.C. Coroners Service on illicit drug deaths shows an average of five people are dying every day in the province.