Decriminalization of people who use drugs and impacts for BC K–12 education

Health Canada has granted the Province of British Columbia an exemption from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, allowing the removal of criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of certain illicit substances for personal use. Decriminalizing people who use drugs is a part of the Government’s work to tackle the toxic drug crisis, intended to remove the shame and stigma associated with substance use and support people in accessing important health and social services.

It is important to note that the exemption does not apply to:

  • Youth aged 17 and younger who will continue to be subject to the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). This means that youth aged 17 and younger will not be permitted to possess illicit substances in any amount;
  • Licensed child care or K-12 school properties where there will continue to be and are criminal penalties for possession of illegal substances, regardless of amount, while on child care and or K-12 school properties.

While decriminalization will not apply to youth aged 17 and younger, this important change could provide an opportunity to talk openly with your child or youth about substance use and addictions. The Ministry of Education and Child Care’s Expect Respect and A Safe Education (erase) website provides students, parents/guardians, caring adults, and educators with information and resources to support healthy and effective learning environments, including how to have conversations about substance use.

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Erase is all about building safe and caring school communities. This includes empowering students, parents, educators and the community partners who support them to get help with challenges, report concerns to schools, and learn about complex issues facing students.

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