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Legalizing deadly drugs has killed users, hurt neighbourhoods, and damaged BC communities: Councillors Linda Annis, Daniel Fontaine, Alexa Loo

Surrey/New Westminster/Richmond (April 22, 2024): Three councillors from Surrey, New Westminster, and Richmond are calling on their city councils to urge the provincial government to end its experiment decriminalizing deadly drugs, and focus on treatment and rehabilitation instead. Councillors Linda Annis of Surrey, Daniel Fontaine of New Westminster, and Alexa Loo of Richmond, say they will bring notices of motion to their respective councils that call on the provincial government to follow the lead of Oregon, which has decided to end decriminalization after its failed three-year experiment.

“When nearly 60 per cent of voters in Oregon approved decriminalization in 2020, they were told their families and friends were going to get treatment for addiction,” said Annis. “As Oregon State Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp said, it turned out to be a free-for-all of public drug use, increased fentanyl and opioid overdose deaths, and Oregon seen as a national dumpster fire. As a result, in a 2023 poll by Emerson College Polling, Oregonians said they wanted to repeal decriminalization, which is what they've done. It’s a lesson and approach we should follow here in British Columbia."

Fontaine said the provincial government’s decision to ignore the Oregon reversal and continue with its deadly legalized drug experiment in British Columbia means more street disorder, more crime, and more deaths.

“The experiment in Oregon failed, and it’s clear that BC’s experiment, which has Ottawa's approval, has also failed,” added Fontaine. “Why should British Columbia continue with this deadly experiment, rather than learning from Oregon? We should reverse decriminalization and put our emphasis on treatment, rehabilitation, and a continuum of care, rather than serving up more drugs as a solution. The fact is, our neighbourhoods, communities, and local businesses are all struggling and losing against the tragic impacts of deadly drugs and legalization, which are growing like a terminal cancer right across the province.”

In Oregon, the new legislation means individuals caught with illicit drugs have the option of drug treatment rather than criminal penalties, and allows people convicted of possession to have their record expunged with treatment. Legalized possession of marijuana is not affected.

“For our provincial government to dismiss the news from Oregon, and the growing reality we're seeing on our own streets in BC, is naive and dangerous,” said Loo. “More than 2500 British Columbians died from drugs last year. At what point do we say BC's legalized drug experiment isn’t working? The recent news that these deadly drugs are being sold and used in our hospitals has to be the last straw. In Oregon their experience with decriminalization was terrible and getting worse, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing here in British Columbia. The provincial and federal governments need to end this decriminalization mistake. The fact is, no community is immune from the fallout of decriminalization, and we need some serious common sense and compassion to turn this around.”