Real Emergencies

I’m going to be out of commission for a couple of days and I need to say a few things about the report that was released last week from the Provincial Health Officer: “Stopping the Harm: decriminalizing people who use drugs”. First of all as I was trying to say on the radio it’s not about decriminalizing substances-  it’s about decriminalizing people.

That means ending the ongoing exclusion of people who use drugs – but mostly low-income, racialized, mentally divergent people who use drugs – from the legal and civil norms conventional in mainstream society. It’s not  about whether or not you’re charged with possession or trafficking or whatever.

It’s about the process of becoming criminal and how people who use drugs think of themselves as being outside of the the law : it punishes us, it does not protect us. But this report asserts that the law belongs to us too because we are also citizens and that’s the point of decriminalizing people.

What the report says is that policing and ongoing criminalization is preventing people from accessing health services, from accessing all kinds of Public Services, keeping us in poverty, making people vulnerable to overdose and endangering lives. Criminalization is undermining all of the health related activities that have been authorized through the initial intervention back in December 2016.

And secondly it’s not just another report by experts that goes into the air and things may be happening or maybe not. The report and its author, the Provincial Health Officer is authorized and empowered through the Public health act and this report has a particular force because of this state of emergency. It is not just another report.

As the Provincial Health Officer of BC,
I recommend that the Province of BC
urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

“Stopping the Harm” is addressed to the government of British Columbia. from a senior officer appointed by government to the people’s elected representatives. This is a high-level intervention, not to an individual minister but to the executive of the government of the province, to the premier and the cabinet, and four ministers.

Consider the precedent. let’s go back and think about the last time we were at day 1114 of a public health emergency oh wait.

This is how to deal with an emergency. This is the most extreme intervention that provincial law allows. It has never been done before.

We need the government to consider these recommendations. It will be painful. This is a terrible situation to face directly. We can help them by being honest and brave, but they must do the same. We gotta talk, and this recommendation must be considered by the people elected to do so.

Silence is death. The legislature, the cabinet table – these are the places where this discussion must happen now. Let’s all take it seriously — as seriously as we possibly can.

Decriminalize Yourself

april 24 2019:

clip courtesy of cbc vancouver On The Coast

The Provincial Report is here. Below is the formal recommendation, quoted in full.

Recommendation

As the Provincial Health Officer of BC, I recommend that the Province of BC urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use. This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC.

Decriminalization is an evidence-based approach to drug policy that is effective in reducing harms related to substance use when reinforced with complementary measures of harm reduction, prevention, enforcement, social support, and treatment.

Redirecting police time and resources away from the enforcement of simple possession offences reduces barriers, including fear and
stigma, and facilitates a linkage to treatment and harm reduction services.

There is precedent for this in otherjurisdictions (e.g., Portugal), with evidence of success that can be applied and leveraged in BC. Specifically, criteria can be determined for (a) the threshold amount
of substance that can be possessed for personal use; (b) assessment of appropriate penalties; (c) how to offer and connect people to treatment; and (d) when the case should be referred to criminal court. In BC, local assessment committees could be established in each health service delivery area, with an option for those living in rural and remote areas to access the committee via teleconference or video conference.

I advise the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to engage with the Attorney General and the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to determine how BC can move to decriminalize people in possession of illegal drugs for personal use, using the discretionary powers vested in public safety
officials and the policy role of the Director of Police Services.

local map

safer using spaces in the downtown eastside

further additions welcome – this is a work in progress

very local media at the end of the drug wars

%d bloggers like this: