British Columbia is now seeing the clash of the two extremes on drug policy that could influence the drug policy at the federal level.
British Columbia was given a green light by the Federal government to officially decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs and to provide a “safe supply” to drug addicts.
At a conference on Monday BC’s watchdogs put their cards on the table trying to drum up support for their “safe supply” program which more importantly showed their main desire is to invent a brand new program instead of expanding and funding existing programs.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe and Children’s Representative Jennifer Charlesworth blasted BC mayors and the official opposition BC United MLAs and federal Conservative claiming they’re spreading dangerous rhetoric cherry picking stories and rejected the idea “safe supply” and decriminalization are to blame for for skyrocketing drug use in public spaces, street disorder, vandalism and crime.
“There is no indication from our data that diverted safe supply is causing overdoses for children and youth”
Children’s Representative Jennifer Charlesworth suggested it’s societies responsibility to keep drug addicts supplied with drugs and alive forever if they don’t want to get treatment and participate in society or until they just die.
“we must do what ever we can to keep them alive until they’re ready to move on to treatment”
The conference was heavily focused on “harm reduction” by providing and distributing “safe supply” with no discussion or ideas of treatment for drug addicts and how that would look like going forward.
“Different perspectives are invaluable in the face of this complex foe, but this is no time for polarizing, fear-driven, and often political conflicts,” said Charlesworth.
We must be willing to try “evidence informed actions in an effort to out smart the manufactures, dealers and organized crime” said Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth suggesting government needs to play a bigger role in drug dealing.
Lapointe tossed out a highly controversial question smack in the middle of the conference asking if the government doesn’t provide the drugs who will. None of the media there questioned her or asked for her to expand on what she meant.
“If there was more safer supply out there would it reduce the peoples reliance on the illicit drug market. Is that a bad thing?” – Lisa Lapointe B.C.’s chief coroner
Dr. Bonnie Henry also suggested the legalization of cannabis is a good example of how to legalize and sell drugs to people over the counter without prescriptions trying not to go the prohibition route or promotion.
“So we need a spot somewhere in the middle and I would say that the experiment, or what we’re doing with legalization and regulation of cannabis fits into that, where you have enough controls and you have enough regulation, but you also have monitoring and safety of the product,” she said.
“So in the long term, would that be a way to counter the toxic street drugs and to take that business away from organized crime? Absolutely. But we’re not there yet.”
Of course not there yet and should there even be a plan to considering no debates or plans have ever been presented in the legislature or in public consultations?
Dr. Bonnie Henry also echoed the idea of punishing society by making it pay for a drug addicts bad choices to stay high everyday consuming public funded drugs until they die instead of getting treatment.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said that clinicians reported drug addicts being prescribed “safe supply” are complaining it’s not strong enough so they’re selling it to buy stronger illicit street drugs that will get them the high they want. She was pushing hard on the idea of trying to replace street drugs with government supplied “safe supply” and invent new pharmaceuticals.
“All of the above”
Dr Bonnie Henry was was asked how she plans to stop “safe supply” from making it to the streets where young people and kids could potentially be buying it.
The question was if there needs to be a large selection of prescription drugs to choose from, stronger dosage for “safe supply” hydromorphone or just make street drugs available because that’s what is in demand.
The conference that was geared towards driving up public support of “safe supply” may have just backfired and put the BC NDP in a tough position having to explain to the public about the provinces ambitions of commercializing a new drug industry.
BC watchdogs, “safe supply” advocates and the NC NDP have been arguing for a long time that the first step is “decriminalizing drug users” claiming it helps with harm reduction to reduce deaths by removing stigma so addicts feel more comfortable and not ashamed to seek treatment.
Critics of the “safe supply” criticize the idea pointing to the fact there’s virtually no plans for treatment and the government has powered full steam ahead without thinking about the unintended consequences that will impact the rest of society including law and order in the streets.
A report by the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) concludes it supports a “safe supply” model that not on its own and says drug users need health pathways to treatment and support to get employment and housing. The BCACP also noted 64% of RCMP detachments in the province report that the communities they serve do not have drug rehabilitation or treatment programs available.
According to a report titled: Drug Decriminalization – An integrated approach to improve health and safety outcomes released on December 14, 2001 by British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police it suggests that decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs was already unofficially being practiced before the federal and BC NDP government made decriminalization official earlier this year.
According to the report illicit drug decriminalization in British Columbia was in full effect by 2020.
“The data show that the PPSC guideline has effectively decriminalized possession of personal amounts of illicit drugs in British Columbia.” it stats in the report.
In British Columbia charges for simple drug possession of personal amounts went from an average of 4,989 per year between 2008 – 2017 down to 50 drug possession charges in 2019 and by 2020 “reduced dramatically” to 14 convictions.
The report also noted a survey completed by British Columbia RCMP Detachment Commanders in October 2021 revealed
a. 54% reported their police officers were not enforcing section 4(1) in the CDSA;
b. 71% of those policing jurisdictions with a population base of 5,000 to 14,999 were not
enforcing section 4(1) in the CDSA;
c. The primary reason for stopping (or reducing) enforcement of section 4(1) in the CDSA
was that the PPSC policy change resulted in charges no longer being approved.