Cocaine, along with a few other potent drugs like meth and fentanyl, is now legal to carry in certain areas.
The decriminalization of recreational drugs has been a hot topic globally. Especially in the United States, the legalization of drugs like marijuana has slowly shifted a century-long opinion surrounding recreational weed use, originating in racist and classist rhetoric. Though the United States is still on a journey of decriminalizing marijuana in all 50 states, other North American countries are beginning to reinforce other progressive policies surrounding recreational drug use. In one province in Canada, small amounts of cocaine and MDMA will be decriminalized entirely.
This British Columbian province concludes a three-year experiment with a new drug law that will allow citizens over 18 to possess small amounts of cocaine. People will be able to have 2.5 grams of drugs on them without fear of repercussions. Alongside cocaine, citizens may carry tiny doses of fentanyl, MDMA, meth, and heroin without being arrested.
Though cocaine possession will lead to no judicial consequences, the production and cultivation of these drugs still remain illegal in Canada. Distribution and trafficking of drugs will not be lawful or receive any exceptions from local law enforcement. The decriminalization laws will also not be effective in schools, airports, or for people in the armed forces. Still, this is a massive win for limiting arrests for young people and those of marginalized identities since these laws have historically been enforced on the most vulnerable populations.
Harm reduction measures, including better, informed policy, have been enforced globally due to many reasons. Other than limiting the number of arrests, studies have shown that more progressive legislation focused on harm reduction can reduce the number of yearly overdoses. The Canadian government started this experiment to combat a deadly increase in overdoses due to drugs like cocaine, consisting of more than 2,000 deaths in a single year. The British Columbian province has the most drug-related deaths in the entire country, which galvanized the government to do something productive to curtail these preventable situations.
The three-year experiment conducted by the Canadian government hopes to spread these policies across the country if they yield effective results. Though allowing people to possess small amounts of cocaine is a practical, proven method to reduce overdoses, many criticize the limit imposed by the government. 2.5 grams may be too low for people battling an addiction to drugs, which could be a significant problem in efficiently stopping overdoses. Others have been quick to criticize the policy’s lag time of seven months, commenting on how dire the overdose issue is in British Columbia. Since the policy won’t be enacted soon, citizens are still vulnerable to high rates of death from drug-related causes.
Other cities and provinces are taking note of British Columbia’s harm-reduction-centered laws. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is pushing for similar laws to be instated, focusing on the decriminalization of cocaine, cannabis, and other drugs. The Mayor of Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart, weighed in on the innovative decriminalization policy about to be enforced in the province. “Drug policy that favors healthcare over handcuffs” is more advantageous to the safety of the province’s constituents, stated Stewart.
Decriminalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine can effectively lower incarceration rates and stop excessive numbers of overdoses. Policy centering around harm reduction provides safer outcomes for people suffering from addiction as well.