British Columbians are split on the province’s plan to decriminalize possession of small quantities of hard drugs, according to a new poll.
The survey, conducted by Leger and provided exclusively to Global News, suggests the prospect of decriminalizing or legalizing hard drugs remains far less popular among British Columbians than the legalization of cannabis.
“When it comes to hard drugs, decriminalization is only receiving 50 per cent support. And if we’re talking about full legalization, it drops down to 35 per cent in B.C.,” said Steve Mossop, executive vice-president of Leger’s Vancouver office.
In May, B.C. became Canada’s first jurisdiction to be granted an exemption to Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of some hard drugs.
The three-year exemption will take effect on Jan. 31, 2023.
The move, which does not legalize the drugs, means people with 2.5 grams or less of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA for personal use will not be arrested, charged, or have their drugs seized.
Do Canadians support the decriminalization of hard drugs?
“Our numbers are a little bit higher than the rest of the country, but still there’s quite a bit of opposition to decriminalization and legalization of hard drugs here in our province,” said Mossop.
The poll found that more British Columbians supported the idea of drug decriminalization than opposed it, and that support appeared to be growing.
Forty-nine per cent of respondents in B.C. said they supported the idea, compared to 39 per cent who were opposed. Support was up from 43 per cent in June, though the previous poll had a much smaller sample size.
However, support dropped off significantly when respondents were asked about full legalization of hard drugs.
Just 35 per cent supported that idea, compared to 53 per cent who were opposed. The smaller poll in June found 26 per cent support for legalization.
Figures dropped off even more sharply when respondents were asked about the prospect of expanding decriminalization to include youth 12-17 years old.
A commanding 63 per cent of respondents was against it, compared to 25 per cent in favour.
“So there is a lack of support in B.C. especially as it relates to youth, and it is still to be sorted out what the implications are for any kind of decriminalization or legalization for that group of people,” Mossop said.
Decriminalization plan for B.C. drug users
Cannabis legalization for adults, by contrast, maintained the support of 69 per cent of respondents.
Support for drug decriminalization was strongest among people aged 18-34 (60 per cent), people with a university education (55 per cent) along with men and people living in urban areas (52 per cent each).
Support was lowest among women (46 per cent), people aged 35-54 (44 per cent), people with college or high school education (45 and 47 per cent respectively), and people in rural and suburban environments (46 and 47 per cent respectively).
B.C. to decriminalize possession of some hard drugs amid opioid crisis
On Thursday, the BC Coroners Service reported that at least 195 people had died in May of toxic, illicit drugs, bringing the total number of confirmed drug deaths in B.C. this year to 940.
It was the highest number for the first five months of any calendar year in the province’s history.
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