VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canada’s government announced Tuesday it will allow the province of British Colombia to try a three-year experiment in decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs, hoping it will help stem a record number of overdose deaths by easing a fear of arrest by those who need help.
The policy approved by federal officials doesn’t legalize the substances, but Canadians in the Pacific coast province who possess up to 2.5 grams of illicit drugs for personal use will not be arrested or charged.
“Stigma and fear of criminalization cause some people to hide their drug use, use alone, or use in other ways that increase the risk of harm. This is why the Government of Canada treats substance use as a health issue, not a criminal one,” tweeted Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
The province’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said that with the policy, “we are taking an important step forward to removing that fear and shame and stigma.”