Blog post #3 What does the decriminalization of drugs entail both locally and globally/what is the difference between decriminalization and legalization.
For my first round of research, I will be looking into what the decriminalization of drugs would entail and what it really means. What would an initiative like this look like both locally in British Colombia and globally. I will also be researching what the difference between legalization and decriminalization is to get a better idea of the both.Hopefully this will aid me to answer my question “Should we decriminalize all drugs?”
Firstly, what does decriminalization mean? Decriminalization is when there are non-criminal penalties for illegal activities (4). But when talking about decriminalization in reference to illicit drugs it aims to reduce the harm that comes with these illegal drugs, such as criminal records, stigma, overdose, and the transmission of blood borne diseases (3). Decriminalization aims to remove forced criminal sanctions and replace them with services that promote access to education and harm reduction (3). But what would decriminalization really entail in a place such as BC. Firstly, I believe that looking into what decriminalization has looked like in other countries can help us understand what it would look like here. in In July of 2001(5) Portugal decriminalized the public and private use of drugs as well as the possession and procurement (8). Instead of being arrested, those with illicit drugs may just have to pay a small fine or even just be given a warning. They might also appear before doctors, lawyers, or social workers where they can learn about options for treatment, harm reduction services, and other supports they may need (6). With Portugal’s decriminalization they put an emphasis on harm reduction services educating users on safer drug consumption as well as sex (2). Harm reduction staff screen for infectious disease, offer sanitary needles, condoms, medication for mental health disorders, HIV and hepatitis. Portugals helps those who won’t abstain from drugs be safer in the way they use (2).
Now what would the decriminalization of drugs entail locally here in BC? Well, we don’t really have to guess what this would look like here in BC as starting January 31st, 2023 and lasting until 2026 the possession of small amounts of some illicit substances such as opiates and cocaine will be decriminalized in British-Colombia (7).It’s important to recognize that this is still not legalization, and these substances will remain illegal, though adults possessing 2.5 grams or less will no longer be charged, arrested, or have these illicit substances taken away (1). British-Colombia will be taking a similar approach to Portugal and will be providing resources such as health and social support when individuals are found with these substances (1). A large component that goes hand in hand with decriminalization is expanding the harm reduction programs that are currently available here in BC. Providing more access to safe consumption sites, safer supply, and naloxone are all key components in trying to save lives (1).
As I mentioned earlier decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization, so what really is the difference? As I mentioned earlier Decriminalization is when there are non-criminal penalties for illegal activities, whereas with legalization all criminal sanctions are removed. With legalization there would still be regulations for drugs just as these are with alcohol and tobacco (3). To further understand what the legalization of drugs would look like we could look at what the legalization of marijuana has looked like here in Canada.
In my next blog post I will be researching How the criminalization of drugs effects marginalized communities / the effect that the decriminalization of drugs could have on these communities?
- Addictions, M. H. and. (2022, May 31). B.C. receives exemption to decriminalize possession of some illegal drugs for personal use. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022MMHA0029-000850
- Clay, R. A. (2018, October). How Portugal is solving its opioid problem. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/10/portugal-opioid
- Decriminalization: Options and evidence (policy brief). (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2022, from https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/defa ult/files/2019-04/CCSA-Decriminalization-Controlled-Substances-Policy-Brief-2018-en.pdf
- Landmark Recovery March 30. (2022, September 6). What does the decriminalization of drugs mean? – landmark recovery. Landmark Recovery -. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from https://landmarkrecovery.com/what-is-decriminalization-of-drugs/
- National Archives and Records Administration. (n.d.). Drug decriminalization in Portugal: Challenges and limitations. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/ondcp/ondcp-fact-sheets/drug-decriminalization-in-portugal-challenges-and-limitations#:~:text=Changes%20in%20Portugal’s%20Drug%20Law,possession%20of%20all%20illicit%20drugs.
- Portugal’s harm reduction policies seem to be working. American Addiction Centers. (2022, September 15). Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/blog/portugals-harm-reduction-policies
- Possession of small amounts of drugs to be decriminalized – but not legalized – in BC. Possession of Small Amounts of Drugs to Be Decriminalized – but Not Legalized – in BC. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/possession-of-small-amounts-of-drugs-to-be-decriminalized-but-not-legalized-in-bc#:~:text=As%20of%20Jan.,longer%20be%20criminal%20to%20possess%3F
- RÊGO, X., OLIVEIRA, M. J., LAMEIRA, C., & CRUZ, O. S. (2021, July 17). 20 years of Portuguese drug policy – developments, challenges and the quest for human rights – substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy. BioMed Central. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://substanceabusepolicy.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13011-021-00394-7