FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On the Anniversary of Decriminalization, Coalition Releases Vision for BC Drug Policy  

British Columbia, Canada | January 31, 2024  

Frustrated by insufficient responses to escalating toxic drug deaths, today a coalition of civil society organizations and people who use drugs unveiled a comprehensive policy platform aimed at ending the unregulated drug crisis and fostering healthy communities. 

Released on the one-year anniversary of the launch of British Columbia’s decriminalization pilot, To End a Crisis: Vision for BC Drug Policy outlines a roadmap for transforming the province’s drug policies. 

It has been nearly eight years since the province first declared a public health emergency due to overdose deaths. Seven people die each day in British Columbia from unregulated drugs: 2023 saw 2,511 lives lost, the highest on record in a single year. Community-led efforts and frontline responses have mitigated some harm caused by unregulated drug toxicity, but advocates argue government support for these actions has been inadequate given the urgency, magnitude and scope of this crisis.  

In the year since BC launched its three-year pilot project decriminalizing the simple possession of small amounts of some drugs in some locations, a wave of politicized rhetoric has threatened to undermine its potential impacts. The Vision for BC Drug Policy aims to articulate a clear path forward, addressing the roots of the crisis through evidence and shared values, not stigma and fear. Endorsers, including drug policy organizations, people who use drugs, and a range of civil society groups representing labour, poverty reduction, health, justice and civil liberties, argue that transformational change is necessary.  

“In the BCCLA’s view, the use of involuntary drug treatment, police presence during wellness checks, closure of overdose prevention sites, and provincial and municipal laws to recriminalize drug use in B.C. are not reasonable methods of preventing harm and saving lives during an ongoing drug poisoning crisis,” says Safiyya Ahmad of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “It is our hope that the Vision will provide a foundation from which social justice groups, legal advocates, people directly affected and government actors can take inspiration to refocus on harm reduction practices and human rights approaches to drug policy.” 

“As an organization representing 60,000 workers from over 90 affiliated unions, we know how deeply the unregulated drug crisis has affected our members, as it has all British Columbians,” says Stephen von Sychowski of Vancouver District Labour Council. “Working people have been hit hard, and we know we need a new approach. That’s why it is important for us to take a stand on this.” 

“Our Coalition, comprised of over 80 organizations and community mobilizations, endorses the Vision because this is the change our communities desperately need. We know that centring living expertise and evidence-based approaches are the keys to solutions,” says Rowan Burdge, Provincial Director of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. “By addressing the roots of the crisis, we’re not just talking about policy change—we’re talking about saving lives, humanizing people, and building a future where everyone, regardless of their circumstances, can thrive.”  

The BC Vision for Drug Policy outlines four key areas for reform: 

  • Drug Regulation: The Vision advocates for responsible regulation of drugs to displace the toxic unregulated drug supply 
  • Decriminalization: Emphasizing the need to separate policing from substance use, the Vision aims to empower individuals to seek support without fear of criminal sanctions. 
  • Addressing Substantive Equality: Recognizing the intersectionality of drug-related issues, the Vision seeks to tackle root social problems perpetuating cycles of poverty, homelessness, family separation, and social exclusion. 
  • Detox, Recovery, and Treatment: Focusing on voluntary choices, the Vision calls for evidence-based programs and services to reduce the trauma and death associated with the current unregulated treatment landscape. 

Anchored in three guiding principles: autonomy, choice, and compassion, the Vision challenges stereotypes by asserting that drug use is morally neutral, and urges policies grounded in contemporary best practices and empirical evidence. 

“The thousands of deaths of our families, loved ones and neighbours are largely preventable. Nearly eight years into this emergency, we must not become numb to the scale of this suffering,” says Nicole Luongo of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. “Moving from broken policy towards a vision grounded in autonomy, choice, and compassion is not only essential; it is an act of love and care for all.”  

Organizations and individuals can learn more and endorse the Vision for BC Drug Policy: 


 Images, documents and links available: 

Media Contact: 

Jessica Hannon for the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition 

[email protected] 

At time of publication on January 31 2024, the following organizations have endorsed To End a Crisis: Vision for BC Drug Policy: 

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition  

Pivot Legal Society 

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association 

B.C. Health Coalition 

B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition 

Surrey Newton Union of Drug Users (SNUDU) 

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5536 

SOLID Outreach 

Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) 

Vancouver District Labour Council (VDLC) 

Workers for Ethical Substance Use Policy (WESUP) 

B.C. Association of People on Methadone (BCAPOM) 

Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War (CPDDW) 

Care Not Cops 

Nanaimo Community Action Team 

Nanaimo Area Network of Drug Users (NANDU) 

Mountainside Harm Reduction Society 

Living Positive Resource Centre 

Prisoners’ Legal Services 

Coalition of Substance Users of the North (CSUN) 

Chilliwack Community Action Team 

Rural Empowered Drug Users’ Network (REDUN) 

Harm Reduction Nurses Association  

Dudes Club Society 

AVI Health and Community Services 

Moms Stop the Harm 

Kilala Lelum Health and Wellness Cooperative 

About the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition 

Founded in 2010, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition works in partnership with more than 60 organizations and 7,000 individuals working to support the development of a drug policy for Canada that is based in science, guided by public health principles, respectful of the human rights of all, and seeks to include people who use drugs and those harmed by the war on drugs in moving towards a healthier society. Learn more at 

About the BC Civil Liberties Association 

The BCCLA works to promote, defend, sustain, and extend civil liberties and human rights in British Columbia and Canada. We achieve this mandate through four core programs: litigation in court; law and policy reform; public legal education; community-based information assistance and advocacy. Relentless in our pursuit of justice, we have grown from a small group of academics and activists to a non-partisan and non-profit organization of people who continue to fight for civil liberties and human rights. Learn more at 

About the Vancouver District Labour Council 

The VDLC represents 60,000 workers from over 90 affiliated unions in our community. Labour council members work at food stores, on the docks, in public services, construction and much more. We work to advance the rights, common interests, and welfare of working people through political action, education, community service, and active solidarity. We unite to build just, affordable, and resilient communities. We are a chartered body of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), representing 3.5 million unionized Canadians. The VDLC was founded in 1889 as the “Vancouver Trades and Labour Council”, making it one of the oldest labour organizations in the country. Learn more at 

About the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition 

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is comprised of over 80 organizations and community mobilizations that come together to advocate for public policy solutions to end poverty, homelessness and inequality in B.C. We aim to improve the health and well-being of all living in British Columbia. The Coalition advocates for a targeted and comprehensive poverty reduction strategy that prioritizes equity-seeking groups, and a whole government, cross-ministry approach to ending poverty. Our work is grounded in the foundation of universal human rights. Learn more at 

About CDPC

We are an independent civil society network of organizations and individuals working to improve Canada’s drug policies. Staff occasionally re-post important articles and curate this space with guest bloggers from our network.