‘Absolutely frustrating’: B.C. minister disappointed with drug use injunction extension

The injunction against British Columbia’s public drug use ban has been extended to the end of June.

The province introduced the drug ban following concerns from municipal officials about open drug use in the wake of the province’s decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs.

The ban was challenged in court by the Harm Reduction Nurses Association, arguing it would push people to use drugs alone indoors and increase the risk of overdoses.

The B.C. Supreme Court sided with the association and issued an injunction initially set to last until March 31. That was then extended to June 30, 2024.

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B.C. Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth expressed disappointment with the latest extension.

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“It is absolutely frustrating. It is unbelievable that courts can say, ‘We can regulate tobacco, we can regulate cannabis, we can regulate alcohol, but we can’t regulate where hard drugs are used,’ that’s just nuts and, in my view, completely out of touch with the general public,” he said in an interview with Global News.

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He says the province is working to show the courts and the public how the rules will be implemented.

Illicit drug use remains prohibited within 15 metres of playgrounds, pools, schools and child-care facilities.

Global News reached out to the Harm Reduction Nurses Association for comment.

A spokesperson and lawyer for the association, Caitlin Shane, said in an email, “Counsel for the parties agreed by way of consent to a brief extension of the injunction, to maintain the status quo until the parties are able to appear for an interlocutory injunction application, which is yet to be scheduled. That injunction, if granted would further block the coming into force of the law pending a hearing on the merits.

“The extension is not an indication of a change in position by either party, it was a necessary and reasonable way to proceed given scheduling issues in a way that did not unnecessarily use scarce judicial resources and court time.”

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