OTTAWA, ON, Aug. 26, 2022 /CNW/ – Today, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, concluded a five-day visit to the United States. During this visit, she heard from government, public health and law enforcement officials, as well as community organizations addressing substance use in Oregon, Washington and Colorado about their jurisdiction’s experiences and responses to substance use harms. It was important to hear the varied perspectives on the outcomes they are seeing following drug policy and legislative reforms, including alternatives to criminal penalties for personal possession of controlled substances.
The five-day visit was also an opportunity for Minister Bennett to share Canada’s public health approach to substance use harms, including safe consumption and supply, and the recent granting of a time-limited exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to the province of British Columbia. This exemption, which comes into force in January 2023, will allow for individuals 18 years of age and older not to be subject to criminal charges for possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs for personal use, including Opioids, Cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine. These substances remain illegal in any quantity if imported or exported, taken across an international border, distributed, or trafficked.
“Every day across Canada and the U.S., people die needlessly due to the overdose and toxic illicit drug supply crisis. Our government is committed to exploring all options to inform our response to this national public health crisis, including continued dialogue with our international partners. I am grateful for the many insightful discussions had this week with our colleagues in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, and look forward to continued conversations on how our governments can work together to end this crisis and save lives on both sides of the border.”
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
- Alternatives to criminal penalties for personal possession of a controlled substance refers to a range of responses, including reducing criminal sanctions, diverting people to health and social services, or removing it from the scope of the criminal justice system.
- Worldwide, over 30 jurisdictions have implemented alternatives to criminal penalties for personal possession of controlled substance to varying degrees, including some places within the states of Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.
- On May 31, 2022, at the request of the province of B.C., the Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health announced the granting of a three-year exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) so that adults (18 and older) in the province will not be subject to criminal charges for the possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs for personal use. More information on the exemption is available here.
- This time-limited exemption will come into effect on January 31, 2023 until January 31, 2026. Up until the effective date, the province will prepare for the exemption’s implementation, including training of local law enforcement and an education and awareness campaign in the province.
- Canada-U.S. bilateral engagement on drug policy occurs under the Canada-U.S. Opioids Action Plan (OAP) within the areas of law enforcement, border security and health. In their February 23, 2021 Roadmap for a Renewed Canada-U.S. Partnership, President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau reaffirmed their commitment to sustained cooperation to address the opioid overdose crisis through the OAP. The Plan has facilitated increased information sharing to address the trafficking of opioids, including fentanyl and related substances. It has also been a forum for bilateral discussions on addressing health impacts and public health approaches to opioid-related harms, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SOURCE Health Canada
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