On October 17th, Canada will officially legalize cannabis. The landmark decision makes Canada just the second country to legalize marijuana on the federal level, after Uruguay.
For some, however, weed should just be the gateway drug to further relaxing of drug laws. Yesterday, Toronto’s public health board voted 10-0 to endorse a recommendation from Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, that urges Canada’s federal government to decriminalize the personal use of all drugs.
That’s right, every member of Canada’s largest public health board is calling on Ottawa to decriminalize, say, crystal meth and heroine as a matter of public health.
“The potential harms associated with any of these drugs is worsened when people are pushed into a position where they have to produce, obtain and consume those drugs illegally, so that’s what we’re trying to address,” de Villa said.
The measure has a proven record of success in Portugal, which decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001 following a heroin epidemic in the 90s. It has even gained steamed here in Canada. Earlier this year, a growing number of Liberal grassroots politicians lobbied for their higher-ups to consider eliminating criminal penalties for simple possession and the consumption of all illegal drugs.
Councillor Joe Cressy says the nationwide opioid crisis has shifted people’s perception on the issue. An increasing number of people see safe-injection sites and decriminalization as viable measures to combat an epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down.
“When we criminalize people who take drugs, we inadvertently contribute to the overdose emergency,” de Villa said. “It pushes people into unsafe drug use practices and creates barriers for people to seek help.” Last year, nearly 4,000 people died of opioid-related overdoses in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that he will not give all drugs the same green light he did marijuana.