FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – While many lauded the province’s move to “decriminalize” small amounts of illicit substances as a step in the right direction in fighting the ongoing opioid crisis, some aren’t so sure.

On Tuesday, the province announced that it had been granted a three-year exemption under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to remove criminal penalties for possession of 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA within the province. The exemption comes into effect as of January 31st next year.

While the province called this ‘decriminalization”, Amanda Trotter, executive director of the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, doesn’t believe it qualifies as such.

“It’s not really being decriminalized, as I understand it; they’re just not going to prosecute for smaller amounts,” Trotter said.

“The problem that you’ve got is that it’s not addressing the issue of contaminated drug supply, and that’s really where the main issue lies.”

B.C.’s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe echoed Trotter’s thoughts.

CBC reports that, in an interview with The Current host Matt Galloway, Lapointe shared her skepticism about the government’s approach.

“It’s been described as decriminalization. I’m not sure that it is,” Lapointe told Galloway.

“Decriminalization, to my mind, would be if you have a substance for personal use, then it’s for personal use, and the police should not have a role to play in that. … What you decide to use for your personal needs is your choice,” Lapointe said.

In the same CBC interview, Lapointe said she doesn’t believe this change will make a significant difference in the short term.

The ongoing opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control after being declared a public health emergency in B.C. in 2016 

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Spencer Hall is a news reporter for and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.