The new drug decriminalization laws will not stop deaths, get rid of the stigma, or help people access treatment, but it will help keep some of society’s most vulnerable people out of jail, according to HOPE outreach founder and executive director, Angie Lohr.
“People are still going to die,” said Lohr.
On Jan. 31, the possession of drugs for personal use was decriminalized in B.C.
People are now allowed to carry up to 2.5 grams of illicit drugs, including opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, crack and powder cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
The provincial government said that the plan is part of an effort to combat the overdose crisis, which has claimed the lives of 11,000 B.C. residents since 2016.
Lohr explained that decriminalizing drugs will not automatically result in a safe supply or more treatment beds and users will still be at risk of drug poisoning.
She said that the change will, however, keep those who truly need housing and treatments out of the court systems.
She explained that not all drug users experience unsheltered homelessness. The stigma around drug use still exists and Lohr doesn’t expect the new legislation to change society’s perception of someone who experiences substance use disorder.
Lohr said that the majority of overdoses occur in homes, not on the street, amongst people who are not typically arrested for possession.
She said that decriminalization will only impact unsheltered people, as they often bear the brunt of law enforcement.
“Other than not arresting our most marginalized, it won’t change much… I guess it’s a start.”
To truly help society’s most vulnerable, Lohr said that there needs to be additional and improved access to treatment beds and supportive housing across the province.