ASK Wellness Kamloops says decriminalization marks shift toward health-focused addiction response – CFJC Today Kamloops

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KAMLOOPS — On the heels of Tuesday’s (May 31) announcement of illicit substance decriminalization, ASK Wellness Kamloops says it’s a step in the right direction.
The federal government has granted B.C. a three-year exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to remove criminal penalties for people who possess a small amount of certain illicit substances for personal use.
ASK Wellness Director of Outreach and Clinical Supports Jeremy Cain says more needs to be done to truly impact the ongoing overdose crisis in B.C., but the exemption is a big step towards treating addiction as a public health matter.
“I think the symbol of it — that the federal and provincial governments are now willing to work together to take steps that they otherwise weren’t inclined to — that’s probably the most positive thing,” he says. “I think in general for folks who are using substances, anything that pushes it toward more of a health-driven enterprise rather than a criminal one is helpful for people trying to deliver services.”
Substances included in the decriminalization exemption technically remain illegal, but anyone over the age of 19 who has 2.5 grams or less of those certain substances for personal use will not be arrested, charged or have their drugs seized. Law enforcement would instead provide information on supports and assist with referrals.
Using drugs alone has become increasingly dangerous given the amount of tainted substances in circulation. And Cain says if people who use substances feel as though there won’t be legal penalties, decriminalization could help reduce stigma that prevents people from seeking out support services.
“But the other piece, of course, is beefing up prevention and treatment and recovery services. All these things need to come together to really make a dent on this stuff,” adds Cain. “But it’s good to see that the government, like I say, is willing to take steps that they otherwise weren’t inclined to do.”
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