Six years after British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province declared a public health emergency in response to soaring overdose deaths, and with numbers continuing to climb dramatically, the Canadian government has announced that the possession of small amounts of several illicit drugs, including cocaine and opioids such as fentanyl or heroin, will be temporarily decriminalized in the province, reports the Washington Post. Beginning Jan. 31, 2023, adults 18 and older will be allowed to carry a cumulative total of up to 2.5 grams of some drugs for personal use without being arrested or charged, or having their drugs confiscated.


The illicit drugs include opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy. The trafficking, production, exportation and importation of those drugs will remain illegal, as will the possession of any quantity of those drugs at airports, near child-care facilities and primary and secondary schools, or by members of the military. Ottawa granted the provincial government’s request for an exemption from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for three years. A record 2,236 people died of an overdose in 2021 — up 125 percent from the public health emergency declaration in 2016.