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Court upholds injunction against B.C. law restricting public drug use

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B.C.'s highest court has upheld a decision that temporarily blocked a provincial law restricting drug use at playgrounds and other areas, CTV News has learned.

The injunction against Bill 34 was granted in B.C. Supreme Court in December, and the Court of Appeal refused the provincial government's attempt to overturn it on Friday.

"We are disappointed with this decision, and we remain committed to defending this legislation in court against the legal challenge," said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth in an email statement to CTV News.

"The legislation that passed in the legislature last November aims to help people feel safe in community spaces while also encouraging people struggling with addiction to connect with the services and supports they need."

Officials introduced Bill 34 in response to concerns about drug use in certain public spaces, such as playgrounds and water parks, with the legislation both banning consumption in those areas and creating new enforcement powers for police to use against people suspected of having recently used drugs.

The Harm Reduction Nurses Association challenged the law in court, arguing that granting those powers would lead to more people taking drugs alone, putting them at much higher risk of dying of an overdose.

While the Supreme Court granted an injunction against the law, the case has not been decided yet, and the injunction is set to expire at the end of March.

Even with B.C.'s legislation on pause, advocates have noted that carrying drugs at playgrounds and water parks remains illegal in the province – the federal exemption that decriminalized personal drug possession in B.C. does not apply to those areas, as of an amendment from September 2023.

The government said it intends to continue championing Bill 34 in court. 

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