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Vancouver council unanimously endorses drug decriminalization, seeks Federal approval

BY The Canadian Press, Nov 26, 2020 8:33 AM - REPORT AN ERROR

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speak to the media during a visit to the Molson Overdose Prevention Site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Thursday, January 16, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Councillors in Vancouver have voted unanimously to ask the federal government to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart put forward the motion earlier this month saying it is time to develop a ``health-focused'' approach to substance use and end the stigma against drug users.

In a statement issued late Wednesday after the vote, Stewart thanked groups such as the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, which he says have pursued decriminalization for years.

In the same process used to create its first supervised injection clinic almost two decades ago, city staff will now write to federal officials, including the ministers of health and justice, seeking an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

If approved, Stewart says Vancouver will work with the police department, Vancouver Coastal Health, community groups and people who have lived experience with drug use to determine how decriminalization should be approved.

The city's support for decriminalization came on the same day the BC Coroners Service issued a report documenting 162 illicit drug deaths across the province in October, amounting to five every day, including one daily in Vancouver.

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