Episode 36: Some Exceptions Apply


BC just decriminalized drugs. Well sort of. For the next three years, it’s legal to carry 2.5 grams or less of certain illicit drugs. But some exceptions apply.

We’ve been fighting for decrim for decades. The goal has always been to stop arrests and get cops out of our lives. We got a watered down version of what we wanted. But the fact that the government did anything at all is because of our long struggle. And that struggle is far from over.

Today we dig into the details of British Columbia’s diet decrim, the policy, the punditry, and the backlash. We also talk about what this reform means for the drug user liberation movement and where we go next.


A complete transcript of this episode will be uploaded here when ready.

Call to Action and Political Demands: 

  • Nothing about us without us. Drug users need to be at the policy-making table as equal partners, not at the kids’ table as an afterthought.

  • Half the dope out there is benzodope. And benzos are not on the list of illicit drugs now decriminalized in BC. That list must expand.

  • 2.5 grams is not nearly enough. The legal threshold must increase to reflect what drug users carry and use.

  • No police creep into healthcare. Police should not be handing out health information cards. The only role police should play in decrim is to stand down. We want cops out of our lives.

  • Cops must not use this as an excuse to ramp up the drug war against dealers. This only ramps up the Iron Law of Prohibition, making drugs more and more dangerous (ie; opium > heroin > fentanyl).

  • Sharing is illegal under BC’s decrim. Drug users often share or sell their drugs to friends. There is no clear line between a “user” and “dealer.”

  • Ramp up large-scale, pharmaceutical safe supply prescribing and allow community based groups to operate safe supply programs.

  • The success of BC’s decrim needs to be measured by the number of arrests, not referrals to treatment. Collect data on drug arrests and seizures of all types across BC, broken down by race.

Learning Outcomes:

Crackdown episodes are frequently used as educational tools by teachers and community organizers. Please let us know if your class or group listens to our work.

Episode 36 is especially useful for exploring the following themes:

  • What BC’s three year exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act does and does not mean for drug users.

  • The drug-user advocacy that led to the decriminalization of small amounts of some drugs in BC.

  • Media coverage and political rhetoric on the decriminalization of small amounts of some drugs in BC.

Suggested Reading:

Bonn, Matthew. 2023. “Why Does BC’s Decriminalization Exclude Benzodiazepines?,” Filter. January 26, 2023. https://filtermag.org/benzodiazepine-decriminalize-british-columbia/amp/.

Boyd, Susan. 2017. Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada. 1st ed. Fernwood Publishing.

Courtwright, David T., 1952-. 2001. Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.

Johal, Rumneek. 2023. “No, BC Liberals: Kids in British Columbia Can’t Buy Drugs From ‘Vending Machines,’” PressProgress. January 27, 2023. https://pressprogress.ca/no-bc-liberals-kids-in-british-columbia-cant-buy-drugs-from-vending-machines/.


Crackdown is produced on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh Nations.

Our editorial board is: Samona Marsh, Shelda Kastor, Jeff Louden, Dean Wilson, Laura  Shaver, Reija Jean. And, rest in peace, Dave Murray, Greg Fresz and Chereece Keewatin.

This episode was conceptualized, written, and produced by Sam Fenn, Alexander Kim,  Alex de Boer, Lisa Hale, and me, Garth Mullins.

Thanks to everyone at VANDU’s Tuesday Education Meeting, including speakers Eris Nyx , Vince Tao, Dave Hamm and Caitlin Shane.

Special thanks to Dave Hamm for helping us with the cover photo.

Our academic director is Ryan McNeil.

Sound design by Alexander Kim.

Score by James Ash.

This episode was produced with support from the Pivot Legal Society and the Unbounded Canada Foundation.

If you like what we do, support us at patreon.com/crackdownpod.

Thanks for listening. Stay safe and keep six.