Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the The Daily Wire. The author of this post is Mairead Elordi.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 59 in British Columbia after the Canadian province decriminalized several hard drugs.
Deaths from illegal drugs are now higher than homicides, suicides, accidents, and natural disease combined, British Columbia's Public Safety and Solicitor General Ministry said Monday in a press release.
From January to May this year, 1,018 British Columbians died from drug overdoses, a 2.9% increase over that period last year. At least 12,264 British Columbians have died from illegal drugs since April, 2016, according to the ministry.
In January, British Columbia became the first Canadian province to decriminalize fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine.
The British Columbia government promised at the time to "treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal justice one."
"Decriminalizing people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving supports,"
Jennifer Whiteside, the British Columbia minister for mental health and addictions, said of the plan at the time.
Residents of the province who are over 18 are now allowed to carry up to 2.5 grams of the formerly criminally outlawed drugs. The province is trying out the drug decriminalization as a pilot program that will last three years.
The current overdose crisis is driven by illegal fentanyl, but meth and cocaine are popular choices, too, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said.
"Expedited testing in 2023 is positive for fentanyl in almost nine out of every 10 results, nearly double the positivity rate of methamphetamine and cocaine, the next most commonly identified substances,"
Lapointe said. "As long as people are reliant on the profit-driven unregulated market to access the substances they need, their lives are at risk."
Teens have been swept up in the overdose crisis as well. At least 142 teens under age 19 died from a drug overdose between 2017 and 2022, a report from the the province's Coroners Service found.
"We know that young people are not immune from the extreme dangers of the unregulated drug supply,"
said Lapointe, the chief coroner. "A public-health crisis of this magnitude demands a comprehensive response that meets people where they are and provides the services they need to survive."
Some U.S. jurisdictions have decriminalized hard drugs as well.
In 2021, Oregon decriminalized small amounts of cocaine, heroin, LSD, oxycodone, and methamphetamine, among other drugs. People in possession of small amounts can face a $100 fine or a health assessment. Oregon has some of the country's highest rates of drug and alcohol addiction.
Washington state narrowly avoided decriminalizing drugs across the state earlier this year. A law that made drug possession a misdemeanor was set to expire this year, but Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed a new drug possession bill into law last month.
Cities with significant drug addiction problems like Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia have not decriminalized hard drugs, but the police in these cities are up against progressive prosecutors who are not eager to prosecute drug addicts for unlawful possession or even open air drug use.
In fact, the Seattle City Council voted this month not to enforce Washington state's new drug law, which would allow the city to prosecute public drug use.