B.C. to request federal exemption to decriminalize personal drug possession

VANCOUVER — On the fifth anniversary of the province’s other public health crisis, B.C. officials announced they’ll be requesting a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize personal drug possession.

Earlier this year, Sheila Malcolmson, the province’s minister of mental health and addictions, sent a letter to the federal health minister inquiring about the possibility. 

In her letter, she asked for a federal approach to decriminalization. But, she wrote, failing that, she’d pursue it on a provincial level.

On Wednesday, Malcolmson announced the province will move forward with a formal request.

She reiterated this week what she’s said before: the point of decriminalization would be to address the stigma associated with drug use. She said the shame can prevent people from reaching out for help, which can be life-saving.

It appears the formal request has not yet been made, but Malcolmson said officials with her ministry have already been working with Health Canada on an agreement that would outline how it would work.

Before anything is put in place, consultations will be held with Indigenous partners, peers, law enforcement, municipalities and public health officials, Malcolmson said.

The City of Vancouver has already sent a preliminary application to Health Canada.

CTVNewsVancouver.ca is streaming a news conference on the opioid crisis LIVE @ 10.

This is a developing news story and will be updated.

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