The City of Vancouver has determined the drug possession thresholds for the most common substances for personal use. The move is the latest step in the city’s application to Health Canada to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of drugs as part of an effort to combat the opioid overdose crisis.
“The City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department, and the Office of Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer have worked together with expert consultants to determine these initial thresholds based on science and research, including long term studies and input from people with lived experience,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
The proposal lists possession thresholds for four kinds of drugs:
- Opioids (heroin, fentanyl, and other powder street options)
- Crack cocaine
The recommended amounts for opioids are listed as two grams, for cocaine three grams, one gram or ten rocks for crack cocaine, and 1.5 grams for amphetamines. According to Stewart, the amounts are based on long-term studies of drug users. The proposal suggests allowing Vancouver residents to carry a three-day supply of drugs to “better address health risks.” According to the model, the three-day supply would mean people who use drugs wouldn’t need to “continue a daily search for substances, nor would they face seizure of drugs by police at or below this threshold.”
Vancouver’s decriminalization effort is being led with “the support of subject matter experts.”
“This approach should reduce stigma that often prevents people who use drugs from seeking help because of fear they will be charged or viewed as a criminal,” said Ted Bruce, public health consultant.
The broad framework of the proposal was submitted to Health Canada in March. The submission is expected to be finalized in May with more drugs added to the list for consideration.
British Columbia’s provincial government declared an opioid overdose emergency in April of 2016, and Vancouver has seen over 1,500 deaths due to overdose since then.