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‘A starting point’: Victoria police chief reacts to changes in drug laws

The pilot project is set to continue until January 31, 2026
Methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine from a safe supply by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Drug User Liberation Front and Moms Stop the Harm. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak and SOLID Outreach’s director of programming Fred Cameron both believe the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit narcotics and opioids is a step in the right direction.

As of Tuesday (Jan. 31), police in British Columbia won’t arrest, charge or seize the drugs of adults in possession of up to 2.5 grams of heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, MDMA or fentanyl.

“We’re on board with it,” Manak said. “We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that it’s successful.”

Cameron said it will take time for a culture change.

“We are living in a different world than we were just one generation back,” Cameron said. “We will see a general culture change and people’s general health, well-being and quality of life will improve.”

This is a pilot project, which is set to continue until Jan. 31, 2026.

“I think everyone is kind of watching what’s happening in British Columbia to see if it’s something they want to implement or what revisions may be needed,” Manak said. “We’re actually pleased that the final decision left the threshold at 2.5 grams. It’s a starting point.”

Cameron had some questions about if 2.5 grams was too low.

“Drugs are sold in 3.5 grams,” Cameron said. “That is the standard measure that goes back decades,” Cameron said. “The whole community is going to have to adapt to that. For the average person in the downtown core in Victoria or Vancouver, 2.5 grams is most of the time going to be enough if they are able to avoid being dope sick until they can get more.”

Dope sickness is the feeling of withdrawal associated with coming off drugs the body has become accustomed to.

Illegal drugs will still be prohibited for those under the age of 18, at licensed child-care facilities, on school grounds and at airports.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our officers are ready on the front lines with the right level of training,” Manak said. “There’s infographics that we have provided. There will be more comprehensive training that happens. The online training really covers off and explains the exemption and what the rules are.”

Cameron believes this move could lead to legalization, similar to that of cannabis.

“My assumption is that we will see something similar happen with harder drugs,” he said. “It is a different story. These drugs have a much harder impact – but we used to see paranoia and some of the other issues with cannabis, and it has completely disappeared as public opinion changed around it.”

“We’re walking down a road that none of us have walked down, so regardless of the amount of training that we’re providing, and the consistency we want, I think there are going to be a few roadblocks and a few bumps along the way, but our goal is to get it right from day one,” Manak said.

– With files from Hollie Ferguson and Wolf Depner

READ MORE: What to know about B.C. decriminalizing possession of drugs for personal use


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Brendan Mayer

About the Author: Brendan Mayer

I spent my upbringing in Saskatoon, and in 2021, I made the move to Vancouver Island.
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