Decriminalization of Controlled Substances In British Columbia

On April 14, 2016, Dr. Perry Kendall, Provincial Medical Health Officer declared a public health emergency under the BC Public Health Act in response to increasing overdoses and overdose deaths in our province.

BC Drug Decriminalization 2022

In an effort to reduce the number of deaths caused by overdoses of controlled substances, the federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health granted the province of British Columbia’s request for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act allowing adults to possess small amounts of some controlled substances for personal use without fear of criminal prosecution.

From January 31, 2023, to January 31, 2026, adults (18 and over) in BC will be exempt from criminal charges for possessing a cumulative maximum 2.5 grams of the following substances:

  • Opium, including heroin and fentanyl.
  • Cocaine.
  • Methamphetamine, but not its salts.
  • MDMA.

There are two important conditions for the exemption to apply. First, possession of these substances must only be for personal use. This means there must be no intent to traffic, export, produce or manufacture the substance. Second, if the substance is possessed on a boat, a train, or a motor vehicle operated by an adult, the substance must not be readily accessible to the driver or operator.

The exemption from prosecutions does not apply in the following circumstances:

  • on K-12 school premises;
  • on child care facility premises;
  • in airports;
  • in a motor vehicle that is driven or operated by a minor, whether or not the vehicle is in motion; and
  • in a watercraft that is operated by a minor, whether or not the watercraft is in motion.

Drug Decriminalization in BC: Next Steps

The stigma associated with substance use can lead people to use in riskier ways. Individuals found in possession of substances listed in the exemption will be provided with information on available local health and social services and can also be provided with assistance to connect with those services. The decision to exempt users from criminal prosecution will allow users to seek and obtain assistance and reduce the number of lives lost to overdoses in BC.

If you are being investigated or have been charged with a drug offence, contact the experienced lawyers at Filkow Law for legal assistance.

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