Penticton won't support Vancouver's efforts to decriminalize drugs amid overdose crisis | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton won't support Vancouver's efforts to decriminalize drugs amid overdose crisis

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Penticton
July 25, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Penticton City Council has followed Vernon’s lead and voted not to support Vancouver’s call to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use.

“I don’t believe people should be using drugs and I don’t think we should be making it easier for them to use drugs,” Mayor John Vassilaki told council earlier this week.

“They’re going to end up selling it to someone else and everybody becomes a dealer? For that reason, I don’t want to touch this with a 1,000-yard pole.”

Coun. Julius Bloomfield made the motion to send a letter of support to the City of Vancouver in its efforts to get permission to run a pilot project in that city and have small amounts of illicit drugs decriminalized.

He argued that a new approach is needed to deal with the use of illicit drugs.

“It’s a move to take the addict out of the enforcement system and the judicial system and put them into the health care system,” Bloomfield said. “Currently we lock them up and deal with them in the courts. The move is to stop that practice and deal with them as a health issue rather than a criminal issue.”

Coun. Frank Regehr argued that police don’t charge people for using illicit drugs now so the motion would have no practical effect.

Coun. Katie Robinson was as blunt as Mayor Vassilaki in her opposition

“I don’t agree (with the motion) at all, probably never will,” she said. “I think we’re throwing in the towel.”

Couns. James Miller and Judy Sentes supported the motion but Coun. Campbell Watt, who made no comment, also voted no.

In March, a similar motion was defeated by Vernon City Council but Lake Country voted unanimously in support on July 8.

READ MORE: Vernon city council says no to drug decriminalization

Earlier in the year, seven B.C. cities, including Kamloops, gave their support to Vancouver. The others were Victoria, Saanich, Nanaimo, Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam.

The cities of Kelowna and West Kelowna have not debated such a motion but RCMP Supt. Kara Triance, who oversees police forces in both those cities, told Kelowna council in February that decriminalization was a priority for her.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s new police chief supports decriminalization of drugs

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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