Is total drug decriminalization the next step for the federal government?

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health recommended to the federal government in Ottawa that it decriminalizes all drugs for personal use in the shortest amount of time possible.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, has called upon the federal government to decriminalize all the drugs intended for personal use, but also to create a task force to “explore options for the legal regulation of all drugs in Canada, based on a public health approach.”

Her positions are detailed in a new report entitled “A Public Health Approach to Drug Policy“, which will be presented to the city’s board of health next week.

The Toronto Public Health reported that in the last year a total of 303 people in the city died from drug overdose, which is an increase of 63% from the previous year.

“These preventable deaths are affecting our family members, friends and colleagues, and we must do more,” she said. “The criminalization of people who take drugs is contributing to the overdose emergency because it forces people into unsafe drug use practices and creates barriers to seeking help.”

Overdoses are not the only thing endangering the users of hard drugs, as there are even worse things out there, such as AIDS and HIV, which can be contracted through an infected needle.

Portugal is known for having a similar approach to their drug laws, as they decriminalized all drugs back in 2001.

Ever since new cases of HIV and AIDS among people with addictions declined every year, and drug-related deaths dropped by 27.5% from 1999 to 2006.

According to Dr. de Villa’s report, this public health approach to drug policy would be based on evidence compiled by the scientific community, and a commitment to social justice and human rights.

Currently, Toronto has only 4 safe-injection sites and several overdose-prevention sites which are designated to accommodate those using intravenous drugs.

Since the beginning of this year to June 25, 2018, there have been 68 overdose-related deaths in Toronto.

Dr. de Villa said that the overdose crisis is a public-health issue and deaths stemming from it can be easily prevented with little effort and investment.

Maryse Durette, of Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, said the federal government is not interested in total decriminalization or legalization of every drug.

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