Is Canada on the way to adopting Portugal’s lax approach to illegal drugs?

Over the past several years the movement to decriminalize illegal drugs for personal use in Canada has been gaining steam. Politicians in favour of the initiative argue drug use should be treated as a matter of public health, not a criminal issue.

In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize the consumption of all drugs in small amounts. Since then, 30 other countries have adopted some form of decriminalisation.

Now, a Canadian politician has made the strongest push yet for Canada to follow suit. On July 20th, B.C. Premier John Horgan sent a letter to Justin Trudeau urging the Prime Minister to “develop a national action plan to decriminalize the possession of controlled substances for personal use.”

Horgan’s plea is a response to his province’s ongoing struggle with overdose deaths.

Horgan believes decriminalization is a necessary step for ending the stigma and discrimination that prevent drug users from seeking support. “Criminal prohibitions are ineffective in deterring drug use,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supported decriminalization. “The CACP recognizes substance use and addiction as a public health issue,” said CACP’s president and Chief Const. Adam Palmer. “Being addicted to a controlled substance is not a crime and should not be treated as such.”

In his letter, Horgan wrote that B.C.’s ministers of Mental Health and Addictions, Public Safety and Solicitor General and Attorney General will now seek to make legislative progress in Ottawa.