Alouette Addictions worries the B.C. government is asking for decriminalization for possession of huge amounts of fentanyl.
The Maple Ridge agency called on the province to consult with people on the front lines of the opioid crisis before setting new policy.
“It’s crazy, the 4.5 grams of fentanyl,” said Mo Korchinski, adding that she doesn’t understand why fentanyl was included in the decriminalization propopsal.
“That’s what’s killing people,” she said.
B.C. has seen 7,700 overdose deaths since 2016, and this year has been the deadliest yet. The toxic drug supply is killing 100 people in the province every month.
So the province has asked the federal government to decriminalize simple possession of street drugs, via an exemption from Health Canada. The limit would be set at 4.5 grams of methamphetamine, powder and crack cocaine and opioids including heroin and fentanyl.
Simple possession applies to drugs for personal use, and while 4.5 grams may be a reasonable amount for some hard drugs, Alouette Addictions said it’s way to much fentanyl.
“The society’s board of directors is compelled to offer a counterpoint to the recent announcement by B.C.’s provincial government that it has applied to Ottawa to decriminalize personal possession of drugs, and specifically questions the amount of 4.5 grams for personal daily use,” said a press release from the organization.
“The proposed daily amount of 4.5 grams of fentanyl has the potential to cause over 1,000 fatal overdoses. The same amount of carfentanyl would have a much more destructive impact on Maple Ridge residents. The provincial government obviously wants to reduce deaths caused by toxic illicit street drugs but it needs to revise its notion of what is a safe supply and must quantify the magnitude of the destructive potential of what they are proposing.”
Fentanyl has been said to be 100 times more potent than morphine, and a three milligram dose could kill an average-sized man.
Korchinski is an outspoken advocate for safe supply and decriminalization. She noted that when she was fighting addiction, she was jailed for a year for possession of 1.5 grams of cocaine.
“We’re incarcerating people because they’re addicts,” she said.
She is in favour of “whatever we can do to keep people alive until they get treatment.”
But she personally would draw the line at decriminalizing fentanyl, adding that the high allowance will make it easier for drug dealers to do business.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare said the NDP government did consult people on the front lines.
“Just this past month, B.C. applied for an exemption from the federal government to remove criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use; this application was written through consultation with front-line organizations, people with lived and living experiences, law enforcement, public health, and others,” said Beare.
“Our government has made it clear that substance use and addiction is a healthcare issue, not a criminal one. Decriminalization of people who use drugs is essential to reducing the fear and shame that keeps people silent and leads so many to hide their drug use and avoid treatment and support.
A Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions spokesperson added that the 4.5 gram limit was arrived at after much research and consultation. It takes into account that fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, and 4.5 grams is a cumulative total. It also allows for drug users in more remote parts of the province, where their drug may be more difficult to attain, to possess a supply of several days.
Police will still be able to lay charges where there is evidence of trafficking, the spokesperson added.
“Beyond this important work, our government has also made important investments to expand prescribed safe supply throughout the province,” said Beare. “The expansion, which was announced in July, was part of a phased approach to separate more people from the poisoned, illicit drug supply and connect them to ongoing health care and support. Safe supply and decriminalization are two separate tools within a comprehensive response to the toxic drug crisis, as we continue to also build up a treatment system so everyone can get the care they need.”
The province’s submission for decriminalization is available online at news.gov.bc.ca.
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