Vancouver Becomes First Canadian City to Vote to Decriminalize All Drugs

In a progressive display of public policy, Vancouver became the first Canadian city to vote to decriminalize all drugs. Currently, the measure still needs federal approval to pass. The city council unanimously voted on Wednesday to proceed with a plan to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all illicit drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine. The aim is to help curb the province’s staggering overdose crisis that has been rapidly worsening due to the pandemic and the increasingly toxic and tainted supply of illicit drugs on the street. 

Learn more about how the Microdose team recently returned from Vancouver to film the next leg of our documentary “The World on Drugs”!

Vancouver Vote Arrives on the Heels of Other Progressive Drug Policy Wins


If the measure passes, Vancouver would become the first Canadian city ever to decriminalize illicit substances. The progressive initiative arrives on the heels of Oregon becoming the first U.S. state to do the same, along with legalizing magic mushrooms for therapeutic use. As overdose deaths continue to soar across Canada, Health Minister Patty Hajdu continues to take matters into her own hands by pushing for more sensible policy measures. 

Read: Canada Health Minister Calls to Keep Injectable Opioid Therapy Treatment Program in Alberta Open  

Important Next Steps in the Battle for More Progressive Drug Policy

While the historic vote undertaken by Vancouver’s city council today marks a historic step towards more progressive drug policy, it is still only the first of many. Next, the mayor of the city will be required to submit a formal request to the federal ministers of health and justice. In the aforementioned measure, the mayor will request a special exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to make the decriminalization plan a reality. While the process may take some months to be fully implemented, the Canadian city is well on their way to making it happen. From here, the mayor is expected to urge every other municipality in B.C. to pursue their own federal exemptions to decriminalize the personal possession of all illicit drugs.

Drug Policy Experts and Sound Scientific Research Support Drug Decriminalization 

Drug policy experts and addictionologists have long since been calling for the decriminalization of illicit drugs as an important means to not only reduce stigma, but implement necessary harm reduction protocols. The increasing prevalence of dangerously potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and it’s even stronger analogues, are seriously threatening the lives of many drug users. 

A peer-reviewed study in BMJ journals states that, “Moreover, prohibitive and punitive drug policies have had counterproductive effects by contributing to HIV and hepatitis C transmission,4 5 fatal overdose,6 mass incarceration and other human rights violations,7 8 and drug market violence.9” Indeed, robust scientific research supports drug decriminalization and initiatives based on treating addiction like a disease instead of a criminal act.

The Future of Decriminalization & The Role of Canada’s Federal Government

In the spectrum of global drug policy, British Columbia has been notably more progressive than most. The availability of mobile, safe injection sites in B.C. far surpasses that of even Portugal, an iconic world leader in progressive drug policy. Despite this, the region’s drug rehabilitation programs have long since struggled with long waitlists and ineffective, abstinence based programs that don’t work for many addicts. The vote by Vancouver today marks a much more tolerant and compassionate shift in the way addiction and drug laws are being formed. 

Despite many provinces in Canada now pushing for more tolerant and sensible drug policies, the federal government continues to avoid taking a firm stance on the matter. While they have the power to issue a nationwide exemption, such an initiative by Trudeau and Canada’s federal government has yet to come. Nevertheless, Federal Health Minister Hajdu continues to press for the progressive measures. As similar measures sweep the world, with the notable recent victory for Oregonian’s, it is clear that new precedents are being established in the way the world is approaching drugs and drug policy. 

“The World on Drugs” Boldly Explores International Drug Policy & the Promise of Psychedelic Medicine 

The Microdose team is pleased to announce continued progress in our documentary filmmaking project, “The World on Drugs”. This boldly personal and evidence-based commentary explores the intersection of drug policy and psychedelic medicine around the globe. We recently returned from spotlighting the most inspiring voices in psychedelics, addiction and drug policy in Vancouver. Notable interviews included Dr. Gabor Maté, Dennis McKenna and Paul Stamets. Subscribe to the monthly Microdose newsletter to stay up to date on all the latest developments in the construction of this exciting project. 

Want to learn more about the future of drug decriminalization and it’s widespread impact on the psychedelic industry? Grab a free ticket to this month’s Psychedelic Capital conference and be sure to check out our decriminalization panel. 

Microdose Psychedelic Insights

Microdose Psychedelic Insights

Your Guide to the Business of Psychedelics. Our mission is to shift the world's perception of psychedelic medicine.