What Is The Vision for BC Drug Policy?

The Vision for BC Drug Policy is not just a drug policy platform - it is a call to action. This Vision was developed by a provincial working group of civil society organizations and people who use drugs. It provides a clear path forward – one beyond the unregulated drug crisis that is now the direct cause of thousands of fatalities every year.

Alarming Statistics in BC: The unregulated drug supply led to at least 2,511 deaths in BC in 2023. Overdose is now the leading cause of death in BC for people aged 10 to 59. Each of these deaths was preventable. The government’s failure to meaningfully intervene in the unregulated drug crisis, and its continued reliance on criminal-legal or medical approaches to drug use, has roots in the founding of Canada as a nation state.

Historical Roots of the Crisis: The earliest attempts at prohibition on these lands date back to the Indian Act, the Opium wars, and an early 20th century rise in anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese racism. Despite superficial reforms, contemporary drug policies still perpetuate the harmful structures that birthed them. They continue to disproportionately affect Indigenous, Black, racialized, disabled, and poor and working-class communities.

Social Inequalities and Prohibition: Prohibition, the foundation of current drug policies, intensifies social inequalities. Indigenous, Black, disabled, and poor and working-class communities are subjected to discretionary policing, discrimination in housing, education, and employment, and family separation under the pretext of preventing and monitoring drug-related activities. Prohibitionist policies decrease public safety. They monopolize public resources that could be directed to correcting historic and systemic harms

Negative Health Outcomes: While drug use is often blamed for social problems, underlying issues such as lack of affordable housing, limited medical care, and settler-colonial violence remain unaddressed. Prohibitionist policies contribute to negative mental and physical health outcomes and compound the unpredictability and volatility of the unregulated drug supply.

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Recommendations for Immediate and Significant Reform

  1. Drug Regulation creates safer, mutually supportive environments for people who use drugs regardless of their drug use patterns while directly addressing the key cause of overdose – the illegal and unregulated drug supply.  
  2. Decriminalization emphasizes the need to fully decouple policing from substance use. This will allow people who use drugs to seek formal and community-based support without fear of criminal sanctions and allow our communities to re-focus on fostering health, safety, and wellness for all people.
  3. Addressing Substantive Equality in drug policy reform is essential to addressing the root social issues that perpetuate cycles of poverty, homelessness, family separation, and social exclusion for people who use drugs.
  4. Detox, Recovery, and Treatment can be an essential part of many people’s journey when chosen voluntarily. We seek to ensure that people who may wish to change their drug use patterns have access to programs and services that are grounded in contemporary evidence. We also seek to reduce the trauma, isolation, and death associated with B.C.’s current unregulated treatment landscape.

Guiding Principles

Each of the Vision's recommendations have been inspired by three guiding principles: autonomy, choice, and compassion. It is from those principles that the authors have grounded the recommendations in the following understandings: 

  • Drug use is morally neutral 
  • Many harms that are commonly attributed to drug use are derived from prohibitionist drug policy environments 
  • Types of personal drug use varies greatly 
  • Medical institutions can create harms that parallel those of the criminal justice and legal systems 
  • Policing and criminalization have no place in drug policy 
  • Policy responses to drug use must be grounded in contemporary best practices and empirical evidence 
  • Government spending on drug-related policies must be transparent, traceable, and accompanied by publicly available outcome evaluations 
  • People who use drugs are best suited to describe their needs and must be meaningfully foregrounded at every stage of policy development, implementation, and evaluation 

Foundation of the Vision

The Vision draws on decades of drug user organizing and activism, and contextualizes this expertise within a substantial body of evidence. It aims to meet the demands of the current moment by providing a roadmap for drug-related policies that is grounded in anti-racist and anti-colonial frameworks and that elevates communities most harmed by prohibition. Released in response to escalating anti-drug user stigma, the Vision rejects disinformation propagated by those in power.


We envision nothing short of a sea change. Our lives, wellbeing and the strength of our communities as a whole depend on it.

Drug policies impact everyone, defining collective movement in communities and allocating scarce health, social, and public safety resources. Shifting from broken policies toward a vision grounded in autonomy, choice, and compassion is not just essential; it is an act of love and care for all.

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