Article by Sam Riches, Growth Op
A motion put forward by Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart to decriminalize simple drug possession within the city’s boundaries has been passed unanimously by Vancouver City Council.
The city will now ask the federal government for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.If granted, Vancouver will become the first jurisdiction in Canada to decriminalize drugs.
If the exemption is approved, Stewart says that the city will implement a plan with input from the city, Vancouver Coastal Health, the Vancouver Police Department, community groups, advocates and people with lived experience.
“On the same day that the B.C. Coroners Service confirmed that a person-a-day continues to die in our city due to drug overdose, Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives,” Stewart says in a statement.
The motion arrives just a few weeks after Oregon voters made history by approving a measure to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs within the state.
With 2020 on track to be the worst year yet for overdoses in Vancouver, a change in approach is “urgently needed,” Stewart says. “It is time to end the stigma around substance use, help connect more of our neighbours to health care and save lives,” the 40th mayor of Vancouver said earlier this month.
In July, Vancouver Chief Constable Adam Palmer, who is also the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said it was time to stop arresting people for simple drug possession.
“It does not save lives,” Palmer said at a July 9 press conference. “The CACP recognizes substance use and addiction as a public health issue. Being addicted to a controlled substance is not a crime and should not be treated as such,” he argued.