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Local MP backs bill aimed at putting substance users into rehab

A private member’s bill aimed at putting repeat offenders with substance use issues into rehab facilities has the backing of Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison.

Morrison said he originally had the idea for the bill but passed it to another Conservative Party MP who was able to table a bill first.

“I was looking at how to change the criminal code to allow someone who is convicted of a federal office, which is two-plus years, to be able to go to a treatment facility/prison,” said Morrison. 

“Tracy Gray, who is the MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, was low on the list and in Kelowna, they’re having very similar problems we’re having in Cranbrook and downtown Vancouver.”

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Morrison said the bill was put forward on Tuesday.

“We’re looking at giving the judge an opportunity, with an individual who meets a criteria, which means they’re suffering from addictions, which is why they’re repeat offenders and not really able to contribute to our communities,” said Morrison. 

“Instead of getting them two years in a regular penitentiary, they get two years in a penitentiary that is designated as a rehab facility.”

This comes after the B.C. government announced the temporary decriminalization of up to 2.5 grams of illicit substances for personal use.

“I’m not sure why they want to decriminalize crystal meth, fentanyl, heroin or cocaine,” said Morrison. “I think the strategy should be getting people off the opioids and illicit drugs, not have them continue using. We should be putting more money into detox rehab, especially at the provincial level.”

However, local addiction service advocates said the move towards decriminalization is a step in the right direction, but a safe supply is needed to help deal with the rise in overdose deaths.

More: Small amounts of opioids, cocaine, meth decriminalized in B.C. (May 31, 2022)

More: Safe drug advocacy groups critique B.C.’s decriminalization plan (June 2, 2022)

Morrison explained that the proposed facilities would be a full-time program intended to break someone from their substance addiction.

“It’s not a Club Fed, it’s not where they go in and they’re sitting in a hotel somewhere, watching television,” said Morrison. “It’s geared so that, after a two-year period when these individuals come out, they’re not going to be hardened criminals like some of the organized crime and gang members we have in regular prisons.”

Morrison explained that the idea would be used specifically for people with substance use issues.

“I think it’s a step in a detox-rehab way where we get some success stories. Right now I’m not seeing a lot of success today when you walk through Cranbrook,” said Morrison. “I think success is detox, rehab and then contribute to your community.”

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