Advocates pushing for Montreal to decriminalize certain drugs say the city has shown it's open to the idea but isn't taking steps to get it done.

In 2021, the city passed a motion asking the federal government to decriminalize drugs across the country, which would require a change to the Criminal Code.

But now the city is dragging its feet, says Ted Rutland, a professor in Concordia University's department of geography, planning and environment

“So you're [City of Montreal] in favour of decriminalizing drug possession but you're not willing to use your powers as a city to actually make that happen” he said.

But there is another way: British Columbia has an exemption to the law. Toronto has also asked for one.

Some who work with users are pushing for Montreal to do the same, arguing drug use should be treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.

"You cannot have a greater public interest than people literally dying on the street," said Laurent Trepanier, a coordinator at the Quebec coalition of community groups fighting aids (COCQ-SIDA).

More than twelve hundred Quebecers died of overdoses between January 2019 and July 2022, according to the coroner's report.

Last year, the premier said the province would not follow B.C.'s lead, saying he didn't think it was necessary in Quebec.

But advocates say decriminalization makes using safer as people can have their drugs tested and don't need to hide from law enforcement.

Rutland likens it to how sex education is handled. Instead of preventing people from doing it, the focus is on doing it safely.

"A lot of the older education around drug use is like abstinence-only sex education. Don't have sex, but kids are still going to have sex. You might want to tell them how to do that in a consensual way, in a respectful way, in a 'safe as possible' way," he said.

The city did not immediately respond to CTV's request for comment.