A growing number of grassroots politicians believe decriminalization is the best remedy for illegal drug use.
Canada’s Liberal caucus recently presented 39 resolutions that will be up for consideration at the federal party’s national policy convention in Halifax this April. One in particular, a priority item, suggests eliminating criminal penalties for simple possession and the consumption of all illegal drugs.
“We see on all the metrics that matter, in terms of a public health approach, positive success stories,” Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said in an interview with the Globe and Mail.
“We’re certainly not talking about legalizing all drugs here. We’re talking about a step that would decriminalize (drug use) … I think the easiest way of thinking about it is we currently use the criminal justice system to tackle drug abuse and let’s use the health system as much as possible to tackle drug abuse instead.”
The “positive success stories” referenced by Erskine-Smith can be largely attributed to Portugal decriminalizing the use of all drugs in 2001. The country now boasts Europe’s second-lowest drug-induced deaths er capita – 3 overdose deaths per million citizens, compared to the EU average of 17.3. Liberal MPs hope treating drug addiction as a public health issue, instead of a criminal one, could be helpful in battling Canada’s opioid crisis.
While NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh supports such a model, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly opposed the legalization of all illicit drugs beyond marijuana. Conservatives, as you might expect, strongly oppose the Liberal caucus’ proposed resolution.
“The Trudeau Liberals want to bring dangerous drugs into our community,” reads one social media ad by a Scarborough-Agincourt Conservative candidate. “The Liberals are rushing to legalizing (sic) marijuana despite concerns being raised by police and health professionals. And now they want to legalize prescription heroin!”
Registered Liberals will be able to vote the 39 resolutions down to 30 through an online discussion until February 14th. These 30 will be debated at April’s convention, after which 15 priority resolutions will be included in the party’s election platform in 2019.
Perhaps we should wait and see how legalizing marijuana plays out when that takes effect this Canada Day.