EDITORIAL – Drug decriminalization pilot project might be wishful thinking

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

‘A GOOD FIRST STEP’ is a common way many are talking about the drug decriminalization pilot program that came into effect in B.C. this week and that’s about as high as expectations go.

While it’s being lauded by those who advocated for the move, no one can say with any certainty what will be accomplished. When the federal exemption for the program was revealed last June, it seemed like it was better than nothing.

But, upon reflection, even that may have been optimistic. Under the exemption, anyone found in possession of a range of drugs — heroine, cocaine, and so on — totalling 2.5 grams or less for personal use won’t be busted and their drugs not confiscated.

The aim is to destigmatize addiction, encourage addicts to enter treatment, and reduce the death toll. In fact, though, it doesn’t target the immediate problem of a toxic drug supply. That toxic supply is what’s killing people — 90 in Kamloops last year.

But possession hasn’t been prosecuted for quite some time so the three-year pilot is, in effect, just an official continuation of the status quo.

There’s already evidence that decriminalization in the current environment doesn’t save lives. Two years after Oregon did the same thing, the results are unimpressive.

There, at least, possession brings a fine that will be waived if the person calls a treatment hotline. Here, there’s no direct connection between decriminalization and treatment.

Anecdotally, at least, in Oregon it hasn’t stopped the black market from selling contaminated drugs. And it’s not getting more people into treatment.

Indeed, there are calls in Oregon for the plan to be repealed based on the premise that acceptance of the drug culture discourages, rather than encourages, treatment.

Here at home, the politicians insist decriminalization is a “monumental shift” in how we tackle the drug problem.

So, maybe it will be “a good first step.” Or maybe just hopeful window dressing to the actual problem.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, alternate TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9489 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Drug decriminalization pilot project might be wishful thinking

  1. The safe, regulated supply of narcotics has been solicited for quite sometime even receiving endorsement from retired police members and health care professionals.
    But how can a government like ours go about securing say raw cocaine ingredients which are all presently controlled by illegal, murderous cartels? Perhaps if the world greatest junkie would to convert to safe drug supplies then the cartels could all of the sadden become legitimate government suppliers. No?

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