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Saskatchewan not likely to follow B.C. approach on drugs

B.C. launching project to decriminalize drug possession, but Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre says Saskatchewan isn’t going that route.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre speaks to reporters Wednesday at a Chamber of Commerce event.

REGINA - Don’t expect the Saskatchewan government to follow British Columbia’s approach on decriminalizing drug possession any time soon.

That was the indication from Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre when asked Wednesday by reporters in Regina about what BC was doing and whether Saskatchewan would go down the same route.

“We have been very clear that we don't want to follow that path in BC, that we aren't entertaining decriminalization in terms of partnerships similar to what we're seeing in B.C. between the federal government and that province,” Eyre said.

Under the B.C. program, that province been granted an exemption by Health Canada from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, effective Jan. 31, 2023 to Jan. 31, 2026. There, adults 18 years and older are not going to be arrested or charged for possessing small amounts of certain illegal drugs for personal use adding up to a combined total of 2.5 grams, such as opioids, crack and powder cocaine, meth, and ecstasy. Instead, they are offered information about health and social supports, and support making a referral to local treatment and recovery services.

Eyre instead pointed to the investments made on the rehabilitation side in Saskatchewan. She also expressed concern to reporters about whether a decriminalization model was designed to deal with more serious drugs such as fentanyl and meth.

“A lot of questions around is that a good idea? We would respectfully say no,” said Eyre.

Other jurisdictions such as Portugal have gone the decriminalization route. Eyre noted some jurisdictions have had mixed results. “Oregon is one, it's been a very mixed outcome.”

“So I think we have to wait and see how this pilot project goes, obviously, in B.C. We're not going down that path right now.”

At a news conference in Saskatoon earlier this week, both Health Minister Paul Merriman and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley were also asked about B.C.'s decriminalization model. Both indicated this was not something Saskatchewan was considering.

When asked Wednesday about the BC decriminalization, Opposition NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat indicated she was interested in getting more feedback about it.

Mowat said it was her understanding this was one of the things police chiefs are exploring. “I look forward to doing some consultation with those folks to hear more about this, to learn more about this, and to see what we should be doing in our province. 

“What we know is that there is absolutely a problem in terms of access to mental health and addiction services in our province. The barriers are so great for people that are trying to access care, and unfortunately, the result of that is our stark numbers of overdose deaths that we have, that are breaking records in terrible ways. We know that we have to work to provide those supports and I look forward to doing more consultation with the police chiefs to learn more about it. And I know that they are they're keeping an eye on what's happening in B.C. as well.”

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