The Supreme Court of British Columbia has struck down a law banning public drug use within 15 metres of parks and playgrounds.
In 2023, the Canadian province decriminalised possession of up to 2.5 grams of illegal drugs including hard drugs like heroin and cocaine for a period of three years. But in November, it passed a law outlawing drug use in specific public areas with a maximum fine of $2,000 and six months imprisonment.
The Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act, which had yet to come into force, has now been temporarily suspended until March 2024.
In his ruling, Chief Justice Hinkson claimed the Act would cause “irreparable harm” to drug users, despite admitting that the “public safety risks are particularly concerning given that many of the restricted areas and places in the Act are frequented by seniors, people with disabilities, and families with young children”.
He went on to claim that the restrictions would “promote more lone drug use”, which may be “particularly dangerous due to an absence or a diminished degree of support in the event of an overdose”.
In addition, he argued that allowing the police to seize drugs could “lead to a range of harms including withdrawal or the resort to the use of cheaper lower quality drugs from unknown suppliers”.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the province is reviewing the Supreme Court’s ruling.
the wild west of unrestricted drug use
Brad West, Mayor of Port Coquitlam, warned: “If this restriction doesn’t stand, then we have truly entered the wild west of unrestricted drug use, anywhere and everywhere”.
Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Canadian MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay criticised the Supreme Court’s “outrageous” decision for putting “children at risk”.
Last year, the UK Government shot down the SNP’s push to decriminalise all drugs for personal use.
Under the Scottish Government’s proposals, addicts would no longer be criminalised for possessing Class A drugs such as cocaine or heroin unless they intend to supply it to others.
The proposals, which repeat calls made by the Scottish Government’s Drugs Deaths Taskforce in 2021, urged the UK Government to devolve powers on drugs legislation or change the law itself.
In September, Glasgow officials approved the introduction of a drug room where addicts can inject themselves without fear of arrest. Once open, it will be the first prosecution-free drug zone in the UK.