British Columbians are open to legalizing hard drugs in response to the opioid crisis, according to a survey commissioned by mental health advocacy group.

Laura Tate is the executive director of the InnerChange Foundation, a non-profit focused on improving health outcomes for British Columbians suffering from mental health issues and addictions.

Tate told CBC's The Early Edition at least two-thirds of British Columbians are willing to consider legalizing hard drugs.

"They don't like what they're seeing in terms of the deaths, and they're wanting to send a message to decision makers that they're open to a range of options that they may not have been open to in the past," she said.

Tate said legalization would reduce the pressure on police and emergency services, and more funding could be invested in prevention and healthcare services.

Other advocates for decriminalization have argued techniques like providing safe, clean drugs can reduce crime and are more effective at helping those addicted to drugs to stop using and seek treatment.

Any legalization process would have to be done extremely carefully, she added, and there are many steps the government can take before "blanket" legalization.

"[Survey respondents] are asking for more services," she pointed out. "They're asking even for options like street drug checking."

The upcoming legalization of marijuana will prove an interesting precedent, she said — especially how it addresses concerns from people who worry about how to prevent harmful usage and youth development.

Nevertheless, Tate is eager to share these survey results with decision makers.

"Policy advances at the speed that people are ready for change," Tate said. "We just want them to know this is a hugely important priority."

The poll was conducted by the Mustel Group in late November 2016. 500 B.C. residents over 18 participated over the phone. The margin of error is +/- 4.4%, 19 times out of 20.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled British Columbians open to legalization of drugs beyond pot, survey says