With no solution in sight for the ongoing opioid crisis, the City of Vancouver has made a drastic recommendation to the federal government: decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs.
According to a statement from the mayor’s office, the City is seeking the “immediate decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs” as one of several resolution to combat “alarming data that shows an increase in deaths monthly since October.”
Such proposals are gaining traction across the county. In January, Canada’s Liberal caucus suggested eliminating criminal penalties for simple possession and the consumption of all illegal drugs. Both the City of Vancouver and Canada’s Liberal caucus referenced Portugal as a model for how decriminalization can encourage people to seek help for their addiction. The country decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2011. It 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.
“What we’ve learned from countries, for example like Portugal, is that when you decriminalize then people are feeling like they’re actually safe enough to ask for treatment,” said Mary Clare Zak, Managing Director of Social Policy for the City of Vancouver. “We need to do something.”
According to BC Coroners Service, 365 people died of illicit drug overdoses in Vancouver in 2017 – a death a day for the entire year.
We are witnessing a horrific and preventable loss of life as a poisoned drug supply continues to kill our neighbours, friends, and family,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson.
“We will keep pushing for bold solutions, and that includes breaking down the stigma that leads people to use drugs alone at home, addressing access to a clean supply through drug testing equipment, and dramatically improving a range of treatment options like opioid substitution therapy.”
Other recommendation actions proposed by the City of Vancouver include:
- – Rapidly roll out funding for evidence-based treatment programs
- – Support the scale up of innovative programs that provide access to safe opioids for those most at risk for overdose
- – Support the de-stigmatization programs that are co-led by people with lived experience of substance use
- – Continue to roll out innovative overdose prevention services in areas where users remain isolated