Decriminalization of drugs: Second submission of “Vancouver Model” to Health Canada

AS part of an ongoing and iterative process, the City of Vancouver on Monday submitted its second submission as part of the pr­oposed “Vancouver Model” for decriminalization of simple possession to Health Canada. This iteration of the submission outlines drug possession thresholds for the most common substances contributing to the overdose crisis. Under this approach, no criminal sanctions would apply, paving the way towards reducing stigma and embracing a health-focused approach to substance use.


“The City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department, and the Office of Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer have worked together with expert consultants to determine these initial thresholds based on science and research, including long term studies and input from people with lived experience,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

The second iteration of the Vancouver Model provides detailed background on how thresholds levels were reached and settles on a recommendation to Health Canada that allowing people to carry a three-day supply of drugs provides the best threshold to address health risks. The three-day supply would mean people who use drugs wouldn’t need to continue a daily search for substances, nor would they face seizure of drugs by police at or below this threshold.

Vancouver’s decriminalization effort is being led with the support of subject matter experts like public health consultant Ted Bruce. This approach should reduce stigma that often prevents people who use drugs from seeking help because of fear they will be charged or viewed as a criminal,” said Bruce.

Vancouver’s approach to addressing substance use as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue, continues to be based on science and engagement with the community and people with lived experience, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

These initial threshold recommendations to Health Canada present a starting point, with the next step being detailed risk assessments and engagement with people who use drugs. As this process is ongoing and iterative, these discussions could result in changes if needed.

The planned final submission from the City of Vancouver is expected to happen in May.

For more information, visit vancouver.ca/decriminalization

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