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ANKORS says drug decriminalization to help reduce stigma

An ANKORS spokesperson said B.C.’s recent move to decriminalize the use of some drugs is a good first step to getting people the help they need, but more has to be done.

On Tuesday, the B.C. government rolled out changes to allow people to carry up to 2.5 grams of certain substances for personal use.

More: Province’s drug use decriminalization begins Tuesday

ANKORS team lead and harm reduction coordinator Polly Sutherland said she is optimistic the change will have a positive impact on those who use drugs.

“I hope the new decriminalization law will have an impact on overdose deaths,” said Sutherland. “It’s just one piece in a toolbox that we have that includes drug checking and reducing stigma around drugs in the community.”

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ANKORS is an outreach organization based in the Kootenays that covers a broad field of subjects, such as harm reduction, drug-checking services, sexual health advocacy and LGBTQ2IA+ Resources.

Sutherland said the stigmatization of drug users can have fatal consequences.

“Demonizing drug use has pushed people to the margins and it’s causing them to use alone and hide their drug use,” said Sutherland. “We’re hoping with decriminalization, that it’s going to open the doors for people to have a more open dialogue around their use.”

Sutherland said this would likely put people in a better position to get help recovering from addiction.

She said this measure is a good first step but hopes to see the introduction of more support for drug users.

“We in harm reduction are hoping that this is going to lead us to a regulated drug supply that people can access,” said Sutherland. “The drugs out there right now are poison and it’s causing extreme risk for a lot of people.”

She spoke to fears that decriminalization will bring drug users to the province.

“2.5 grams is quite a small amount when you’re looking at a substance,” said Sutherland. “Using the comment that it’s just going to bring people in, I feel is just another way to demonize the policies that we’re making towards changing drug laws.”

ANKORS is set to host a series of online public info sessions for residents to learn about the new policies and ask questions.

The meeting will go ahead on Monday at 2 p.m. over Zoom.

“We’re going to have some Interior Health staff who will provide information about decriminalization and we’re going to have the local peer groups as well,” said Sutherland.

You can get access to the meeting by getting in touch with Sutherland at [email protected]

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