B.C.’s move to decriminalize possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs does not extend to the school ground.
On Jan. 30, the provincial government and Health Canada announced that after Jan. 31, possession of 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA for personal use would no longer be a criminal offence. After the announcement, School District 83 issued its own media release to make it clear that the exemption does not apply to youth ages 18 and under, or to K-12 school premises.
“I encourage you to be pro-active with your teens about the fact that decriminalization of illicit substances does not change the law around substances at school, and that the School Code of Conduct and District policy continue to apply,” commented SD83 director of instruction (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Carol-Ann Leidloff in a Jan. 30 media release.
Health Canada and the province have stressed drugs included in the exemption remain illegal; however, adults found in possession of a cumulative total of as much as 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA for personal use will no longer be arrested, charged or have their drugs seized. Instead, police will offer information on available health and social supports, as well as local treatment and recovery options.
The school district provided the following about the exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act:
• Decriminalization comes into effect on Jan. 31, 2023, for an initial three-year period.
• Adults (ages 18 and over) at school or on school property will continue to be subject to criminal penalties for possession of controlled substances (i.e. the ones mentioned above), regardless of the amount in their possession.
• School district policies re substance use and possession continue to apply.
• Trafficking remains illegal, regardless of the amount that is in someone’s possession.
The school district explained people 18 and over are considered adults under the Criminal Justice Act and are subject to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
“Drug possession in any amount will continue to be a criminal offence on K-12 school grounds and at licensed child care facilities,” said B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and Health Canada in a Jan. 30 media release. “Further, decriminalization does not apply to youth 17 and younger. Youth found in possession of any amount of illegal drugs are subject to the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act, which offers them alternatives to criminal charges in some cases.”
At the Jan. 23 City of Salmon Arm council meeting, Staff Sgt. Scott West said the local detachment had policies and procedures in place to facilitate the change, and Interior Health has provided cards that can be handed out with information about available supports and treatment options.
“I think that’s a right direction because if you do one thing, you have to provide the supports to do that,” said West.
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