Alternative approaches to the criminalization of drugs: A drug policy research program for BC

The criminalization of drugs contributes to a range of health and social harms for people who use drugs (PWUD) across BC and Canada. Criminalization is a barrier for PWUDs access to health and harm reduction services. It also increases overdose and infectious disease risk and contributes to the over-incarceration of PWUD in Canadian prisons. The harms from criminalization are increasingly recognized by policymakers, scholars, and advocates across Canada. In BC, alternative policy models are being considered, including depenalization, decriminalization, police diversion, and safer supply programs. There is a timely opportunity to investigate the decisions, policies, and interventions related to these alternative approaches that aim to promote health equity for PWUD. This community-engaged research program will engage, work closely with, and gather the views of policymakers, health and justice system actors, PWUD, and other communities impacted by illicit drugs, to ensure the relevance, usefulness, and applicability of findings. Knowledge gained from this research is vital to support and promote health equity for PWUD both in BC and beyond.