Political Debate Over Street Drug Use is Heating Up

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is requesting an emergency debate in the House of Commons over the decriminalization of hard drugs. In a letter to the Speaker of the House, Poilievre says Trudeau’s drug policy needs to be dismantled, calling it a “dangerous experiment.”

Late last week, BC’s Premier, David Eby said his province would move to recriminalize public drug consumption. The move is in response to numerous stories of street drugs being used in BC hospitals, playgrounds, and public transit.

The British Columbia government is asking Health Canada to “urgently change” the decriminalization policy to stop drug use in public. B.C. Premier David Eby listens during an announcement in a greenhouse in Delta, B.C., on Monday, March 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The three-year decriminalization pilot project was enacted on Jan. 31, 2023, exempting those who are in possession of small amounts of opioids from facing criminal charges. Exemptions apply to drugs including heroin and fentanyl, as well as cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, in quantities of 2.5 grams or less.

The U-turn by the provincial government comes after repeated criticism from politicians, health workers and police about the policies, including open drug use in public spaces. 

The province had tried to make drug use illegal in public places with its own legislation, but the Harm Reduction Nurses Association challenged the bill in court.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled in December that if the laws were enacted, “irreparable harm will be caused.” 

Premier David Eby said they’ve now asked for the changes to come from Health Canada. 

“The resolution of that court issue is potentially more than a year down the road and we cannot afford to wait. We need to act now,” Eby said. 

“I have talked to the prime minister about this,” he said. “He assures me that the federal government will provide full support to ensure that police have the tools that they need.”

Eby said it’s possible the government could face another legal challenge in response to these changes, but he thinks the risk is low.

-With files from the Canadian Press-

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