A few city council members want to look at the possibility of decriminalizing small amounts of drugs in Winnipeg.

In a notice of motion filed by Councilor Sherri Rollins and seconded by Councilor Markus Chambers, the city’s CAO is requested to ask the federal government for an exemption under the Drugs and Substances Control Act.

“Criminalization makes it difficult for people to use drugs to gain access to harm and reduction services,” Rollins said. “It increases risks and sometimes subjects them to even more health damage, which are injuries and illnesses or social damage such as unemployment and homelessness.”

Rollins says the amount of drugs and how much will be considered a small amount has yet to be discussed.

The notice also states that research indicates that there is “racial prejudice within police investigations and prosecution of drug crimes which results in Black and Indigenous people being dramatically overrepresented in drug arrests and convictions as a result”.

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Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton have already looked at decriminalizing small numbers, according to the notice.

Vancouver only brought it up for consideration in 2020, and is now awaiting a final response from Health Canada.

READ MORE: BC formally asks Ottawa for exemption to decriminalize illegal drug possession

Late last year, British Columbia became the first province to ask Ottawa for an exemption.

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BC’s proposal would provide those caught with less than 4.5 grams of drugs, including heroin and fentanyl, with information on access to addiction and health services, instead of dealing with the police.

In 2020, 372 Manitobans died due to drug homicide dose.

Rollins says we are at a crucial stage in this struggle.

“We are in a drug poisoning crisis and it continues unabated and work must continue unabated,” Rollins said.

READ MORE: There are increasing calls for drug decriminalization, but can it solve Canada’s opioid crisis?

Mayor Brian Bowman was unwilling to say whether he supported the idea.

“I’m going to talk a lot more with community members, and I encourage Winnipeggers to share their views with their board members,” Bowman said.

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The decriminalization notice of motion will be discussed further during February’s city council meeting.

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