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People found with small amounts of illicit drugs in the province of British Colombia won’t be arrested or go to jail for the next three years, but rather offered information on available health and social services.

This was announced by Canadian authorities who asked for a criminal code exemption. Their decision was based on the shocking number of lives lost in British Colombia over the last year.

The exemption will run from 31 January 2023 until 31 January 2026. It won’t apply to primary and secondary school grounds, child-care facilities, members of the Canadian military or airports.

According to the exemption, adults will be allowed to possess a combined total of 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA.

Although the substances will still be considered illegal, those found in possession for personal use won’t be arrested.

The BBC reports that in its request to the federal government last year, the province of British Colombia said it asked for the drug laws exemption in order “to remove the shame that often prevents people from reaching out for life-saving help”.

On Tuesday, Federal minister of mental health and addictions Carolyn Bennet said that “for too many years, the ideological opposition to hard reduction has cost lives. We are doing this to save lives, but also to give people using drugs their dignity and choices.”

Image credit: The New York Times

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