What it is: BC’s exemption from subsection 56(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act: exemption for adults in the province of British Columbia to possess small amounts of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. Adults over the age of 18 in BC will not be charged criminally for the possession of up to 2.5 grams of illegal substances.
Purpose: This exemption was enforced with the help of the federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and the Associate Minister of Health in order to combat the overdose crisis in BC. The intentions are to change the way drug users are perceived and treated by the community and law enforcement and change the perspective from a criminal issue to a public health issue.
Exemption vs legalization: Exemption only applies to a small aspect of the law, such as only 2.5 grams of an illegal substance being allowed on an adult, whilst everything else is still illegal, such as 3.5 grams of an illegal substance being found on an adult, or the trafficking or selling of these drugs. Legalization would mean that any amount would be legal, and the means of production and trafficking would also be legal
How long it will last: Until January 31, 2026.
Where it applies to: The province of British Columbia only. Substances are illegal in all other provinces of Canada, as well as any school premises or childcare facilities, and airports.
Who it applies to: Adults over the age of 18.
Substances accepted under the exemption: Opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA.
What happens when you are found in possession of under 2.5 grams: Police will ask you what drug you are carrying, you are not charged and your drugs are not seized. Instead, you will be offered information regarding health support and social support, as well as referrals to treatment and recovery services.
Limitations: Any greater quantity than 2.5 grams of the drugs listed remains criminal. It is still a criminal offence to:
- Import or export drugs
- Take drugs across any domestic or international border
- Produce drugs
- Keep drugs in possession for purposes other than personal use
- Traffic drugs (give, sell, supply, administer, transfer, transport, send, or deliver)
- Possess drugs in a motor vehicle or on public transit in an unsafe way or in a way in which the drugs are readily accessible to the driver
- Drug usage in municipal city facilities and private areas (such as malls or restaurants). If found using drugs, you will not be charged, but you will be asked to leave.