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New Campbell River bylaw bans open use of drugs as B.C. decriminalizes possession

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A city on Vancouver Island rushed in a new bylaw just before B.C. officially decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs.

The new bylaw in Campbell River, B.C., prohibits the open consumption of street drugs on public property, including in municipal parks, city facilities and roads.

The bylaw was introduced on Thursday, just ahead the province's decriminalization pilot project, which came into effect on Tuesday.

B.C. is now the first province in Canada to make it legal for adults to possess a combined 2.5 grams of drugs, such as opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine or MDMA.

Health officials say by decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs, more people will be able to access medical services and there's an opportunity for the perception of substance use to shift from crime to public health.

Campbell River, like many cities across Canada, has been struggling with an addiction issue in its downtown core.

With the new bylaw in place, Campbell River’s director of community safety Peter Wipper says people can be fined $200 for consuming drugs in public spaces, similar to bylaws that are in place that prohibit the open consumption of alcohol or marijuana.

"I would think one of the main thrusts is to address the public's concern when they come downtown," said Wipper.

"Let's say they want to go to Spirit Square and sit down on the benches, are they going to feel safe there?" he said.

James Simon, who operates a business in downtown Campbell River, says he applauds the new bylaw, but he isn't sure how much of an effect it will have.

"It's getting worse," said Simon. "I don't feel any fear, but I do understand it."

The city has the power of enforcing the bylaw effective immediately, but whether they do, remains to be seen.

"[In] the dark evening, just like anywhere else, don't go into back alleys or anything," said Simon.

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