Looking at drug decriminalization
February 2, 2024 By Brittani Schroeder
Welcome to 2024! January marks the beginning of an exciting year for Blue Line and, by extension, you as its readers.
What do we have ahead of us, you might ask? This year, we will be looking at a wide range of topics that are important to you as members of law enforcement, highlighting the achievements of your agencies, and connecting with you through new, meaningful ways. Some of the topics we’ll be focusing on this year include technology and innovation, interoperability between first responders, recruitment, training, diversity in policing, gear and firearms. In 2024, we’ll also be hosting five events: OACP & Blue Line Expo, Mar. 26 in Ottawa, Ont.; three Security • Police • Fire Career Expos, happening in Toronto on Mar. 27, Vancouver on May 16, and Edmonton on Oct. 29; and Policing in the Digital Age: A Virtual Tech Symposium, taking place Oct. 3.
In January 2023, British Columbia was the first Canadian province to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs.
For the first 2024 print edition, I wanted to look at a topic that has been the subject of many conversations across Canada over the last few years, and that is drug decriminalization. In April 2016, British Columbia’s provincial health officer declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act, due to the high number of overdoses occurring. Over the following seven years, overdose numbers continued to rise. In 2020, mandate letters were given to B.C.’s Ministers of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Housing and Public Safety, which emphasized the pressing need for a “made in B.C. solution” to confront the overdose crisis. In Jan. 2023, B.C. was the first Canadian province to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs. This three-year pilot program not only affected the public but law enforcement as well.
In this month’s cover story, I had the opportunity to speak with Fiona Wilson, Deputy Chief at the Vancouver Police Department and President of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP), and Neil Dubord, Chief of the Delta Police Department, about what they have seen over the last 12 months in B.C. This includes the recent Supreme Court action concerning Bill 34, Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act, that took place on Dec. 29, 2023.
Deputy Chief Wilson and Chief Dubord also shared key takeaways from their perspectives over the past year, and these will be important to remember as other provinces begin to consider the pros and cons of running a similar pilot program in their jurisdictions. You can find the full story on page 10.
As we begin this new year, please reach out to me at any time if you believe that there is a topic that you think we should be talking about or a new program that your police service has started. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, happy reading and be well.
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