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‘End failed decriminalization experiment’: Kelowna-Mission MLA

Column by Renee Merrifield
Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield. (Contributed)

~Column: Renee Merrifield

Decriminalization of drugs was pitched as a compassionate reform, aimed at transforming how we treat addiction and reducing the stigma associated with drug use.

It was supposed to include an extensive system of treatment, data analysis, and transparency.

None of this has happened.

The reality that has unfolded paints a starkly different picture—one where the repercussions of such policies have proven not only counterproductive but downright harmful to the fabric of our communities.

Our parks and playgrounds, once vibrant and safe spaces for recreation and family gatherings, are now frequently marred by the presence of discarded drug paraphernalia, garbage, and even unused drugs.

This is a direct fallout from a decriminalization policy that has inadvertently prioritized the freedoms of drug users over the safety and well-being of the broader public, especially our children. It is simply unacceptable that our youngest, most vulnerable citizens are now exposed to such hazards in places specifically designed for their play and development.

While this was changed in the fall by the government after consistent pressing from the BC United opposition, the courts have put an injunction against it until it can be evaluated. Rather than use the “Notwithstanding Clause” this government has been content to wait.

Meanwhile, our children’s and families’ safety is threatened.

The situation in our healthcare facilities is equally alarming. Hospitals, meant to be sanctuaries of healing, are increasingly grappling with on-site drug use and even contending with drug dealing, which not only disrupts patient care but also places additional strains and risks on our healthcare workers.

This diversion of focus is not just a minor inconvenience; it compromises the quality of healthcare for all patients and stresses our medical systems.

The role and efficacy of our law enforcement have been undermined by decriminalization.

Officers are frequently uncertain about how to respond to drug-related incidents, given the leniency imposed by decriminalization. This not only hampers their ability to maintain public order but also demoralizes them.

The evidence is overwhelming, and the conclusion is clear: decriminalization — as it currently stands — has failed. The anticipated balance between offering a compassionate approach to drug addiction and maintaining public safety has not materialized.

Instead, it has led to increased public health risks, compromised safety in communal spaces, and an overburdened healthcare system.

Furthermore, other jurisdictions where decriminalization policies have been tried, have already been repealed.

Oregon was hailed as a gold standard of “harm reduction” by the BC NDP government, and Oregon just reversed course last month and canceled decriminalization. The government of BC should as well.

We must repeal these decriminalization policies and reestablish laws that prioritize the safety and security of the general populace. We should empower our law enforcement officials with the clarity and authority they need to effectively manage and prevent drug-related issues.

Compassion for those struggling with addiction is crucial, but it should not come at the expense of community safety or general welfare.

The experiment with decriminalization needs to end now. We must refocus our efforts on strategies that genuinely safeguard public health and safety while providing robust support for addiction treatment and recovery.

This means funding more addiction recovery programs, enhancing mental health support, and ensuring these services are accessible to those in need without compromising the safety and well-being of our communities.

Let’s put an end to this failed experiment and take a stand for the safety and health of all our citizens.

My question to you is this: Do you agree that decriminalization of drugs should end?

I love hearing from you and read every email you send.

Please email me at or call the office at 250-712-3620.