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Quantitative Evaluation of the Impact of Decriminalization on Health and Criminal Justice Outcomes

PIDr. Jürgen Rehm, Institute of Mental Health Policy Research, CAMH, ON and Ontario CRISM Node Team (OCRINT)

Project Lead: Dr. Sameer Imtiaz, Institute of Mental Health Policy Research CAMH, ON

Working Group: Dr. Bernard Le Foll (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health); Dr. Tara Gomes (St. Michael’s Hospital); Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite (BC Centre for Disease Control); Dr. Heather Palis (BC Centre for Disease Control); Ms. Chloe Xavier (BC Centre for Disease Control); Ms. Taija McLuckie (AVI Health and Community Services); Dr. Tara Elton-Marshall (University of Ottawa), TBD

To assess the impacts of decriminalization we are examining a variety of indicators over time using routinely collected provincial (BC-specific) and National statistics. These statistics will be assessed on an annual or bi-annual basis, based on availability, starting with ten years prior to the implementation of the decriminalization policy (~2012). For each of the proposed indicators outlined below, data will be analyzed using interrupted time series (ITS) modeling which will determine changes in these indicators over time from pre-decriminalization to post-decriminalization. The following indicators will be examined:


  • Emergency Room (ER)/Hospitalizations for illicit substance use
  • Harm Reduction service visits
  • Overdose calls to paramedics
  • Overdose deaths
  • Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) engagement/prescriptions
  • Substance Use Disorder (SUD) diagoses
  • Substance use patterns and trends
  • Quality of life 
  • Number of seizures, arrests, charges, and criminal records for personal possession, trafficking, and drug-adjacent crimes (e.g., public drug use) 
  • Number of other serious crimes
  • Police and court time and resources spent on enforcement or prosecution of personal possession of illicit substances