Recently, British Columbia Premier David Eby announced that the provincial government is taking action to address concerns in the province about the public consumption of drugs. The Minister of Public Safety has introduced a bill in the provincial legislature titled “Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act”.

Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act

As the title suggests, the proposed law is aimed at reducing the public consumption of illegal substances. Specifically, the illegal substances subject to this law are opioids (including fentanyl), cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA. The law would prohibit the use of those drugs near the following areas:

  • parks;
  • playgrounds;
  • pools;
  • beaches;
  • businesses;
  • residences;
  • bus stops; and
  • skate parks.

Under this new law, police officers would be empowered to direct a person they believe is consuming drugs near those areas mentioned above to either cease consuming drugs or to leave the area. Failing to comply with a police direction will become a provincial offence.

Suppose a police officer believes an individual is committing an offence by failing to follow a police direction to cease consuming drugs or to leave the area. In that case, the officer is empowered to arrest the individual without a warrant and to seize and destroy the drugs. An exception prohibits the seizure and destruction of drugs that have been lawfully prescribed.

This legislation will also require local governments to consult with health authorities before considering any bylaws that further regulate the consumption of drugs in public.

The proposed law does not have any explicit provisions for punishment, which means that the provincial Offence Act governs. The maximum penalties under the Offence Act are a $2,000 fine and 6 months of imprisonment. The courts are also permitted to impose probation orders up to a maximum of 2 years. Failing to comply with a probation order is a separate offence.

The bill is still in its first reading. It remains to be seen if it will become law and what effect it will have on individuals, communities, and businesses. While this law may address the concerns of parents and business owners, others are concerned that it will push drug users further into the shadows.

If you have been charged with a drug-related offence, contact the experienced lawyers at Filkow Law today.