As of January 31st, British Columbia has initiated a 3-year pilot program which decriminalizes the possession of up to 2.5 grams of drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, morphine, crack, powder cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA for individuals aged 18 and above.
The aim of the program is to address the overdose crisis in the province by reducing the shame and stigma surrounding drug use and encouraging individuals to seek help. The current stigma associated with drug use is a significant factor that causes people to use drugs in isolation, leading to fatal overdoses as there is no one around to provide assistance or call for help. Further details about the decriminalization program can be found through the provided link.
Saskatchewan Has Chosen Not to Follow Suit
The Saskatchewan government stated that there are no plans to follow B.C.’s lead by implementing a similar program.
“B.C. gets to be the guinea pig, if you like, for this pilot project with the federal government,” Saskatchewan Minister for Justice Bronwyn Eyre said in December 2022 after the plan was announced. sourceKruger, Brooke “Saskatchewan continues talk about drug decriminalization following start of B.C. trial” Global News. January 31, 2023
The statement mentions that the lack of knowledge about the potential long-term impact on public safety of decriminalizing illicit drugs is a major reason for not implementing a similar program in Saskatchewan. Instead, the province is committed to providing funding for addiction and treatment programs and services over the next three years. This cautious approach is a positive indication that the necessary foundations must be established for decriminalization to be effective. This view is supported by Regina Police Service Chief Evan Bray, who stated that decriminalization must be accompanied by comprehensive harm reduction services.
The Clock is Ticking
There has been a steady increase in drug overdose deaths in Saskatchewan since 2014.
In 2022, a record 421 people in Saskatchewan died due to drug overdose, according to a Drug Toxicity Report released last month. That number has seen an increase over the past nine years.
In 2021, 410 people died from overdoses, up from 325 in 2020. Two years prior, 172 overdose deaths were recorded in 2018.Sorokan, Keenan “Saskatchewan not planning to decriminalize drug possession” CTV News Saskatoon. February 1, 2023
According to statistics provided by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, 2014 was the last year the overdose crisis didn’t worsen, going from 88 in 2013 to 85 the year following. source