British Columbia has learned that punishing drug users doesn’t stop drug use or the negative impact drugs have on our society. The province decided to shift from a punishment approach to drug control to a health focussed approach, as in they will help people get off of drugs instead of incarcerating them. The first step in that process is to decriminalize the drugs in question, note this is not legalization (like alcohol and marijuana).
The goal of decriminalization is to reduce the harms of arrest and drug seizure on individual users, officials said, and to reduce the stigma around substance use that prevents people from seeking health care or accessing adequate housing and employment.
“In the short term, decriminalization will stop seizures and arrests and connect people with services and supports,” said Malcolmson, noting that reducing stigma will be a long-term goal.
Fear of arrest and of losing employment, housing or custody of children often prevents people who use drugs from accessing harm reduction and health supports, or from telling family and friends about their substance use.