Last week, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (the Act) received Royal Assent and became law in Canada.
This change in the law has the potential to save lives while our country currently faces an opioid crisis. The recent opioid crisis seems largely tied to Fentanyl and its growing popularity amongst drug users. Needless to say, the new law provides exemptions for all substances listed in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Who Does the Exemption Apply to?
The Act is meant to protect people helping themselves or others in circumstances involving overdosing. The Act, in certain circumstances, provides exemptions from: charges of simple possession of drugs, breaches of probation, breaches of bail, breaches of conditional sentences, and breaches of parole. The exemption applies for people that call 911 (or any emergency service) for themselves or another person that is suffering from an overdose. The exemption also applies to anyone who is at the scene (or who has left) when emergency personnel arrive to help the person suffering from the overdose.
When will the Exemption not Apply?
The Act will not protect good Samaritans or those overdosing that call emergency services if they have an outstanding warrant, are involved in the production or trafficking of drugs, or any other crimes not covered in the Act that may have been committed (for eg. if someone were to assault someone nearby and then call for overdose assistance – they would not be free of prosecution on the assault).
A Step in the Right Direction
Opioids are claiming lives in Canada. The lives claimed range from the poor to the wealthy. Criminalization of drugs has caused numerous societal problems and made the selling of illicit substances very profitable for criminals and criminal enterprises. The legislation will hopefully cause Canadians that may be involved in the drug subculture to be less cautious about calling emergency services to help themselves or another person.
This new approach is promising to frontline workers that help and assist people in crisis that are involved with drugs. This may be the first step toward decriminalizing simple possession of drugs in Canada and treating drugs as a health issue and not a matter for the police.