The Toronto federal government has already approved the legalization of weed, which takes effect Oct. 17.
Now — Toronto’s medical officer of health is campaigning for the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use as part of a switch to a public health approach to drug overdose prevention in the thick of a fatal and deteriorating crisis.
“There is an opioid overdose epidemic that is happening in our city and too many people are dying,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said Monday. “I believe we have scientific evidence and evidence from other jurisdictions that would suggest this different approach, a more public health approach to drug policy, is at the very least worth trying.”
The Toronto medical officer is beseeching the city’s board of health to call upon the federal government to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use, while grading up “prevention, harm reduction and treatment services.”
She is too recommending Ottawa convoke a task force made up of people who utilize drugs, alongside experts in policy, health care, human rights, mental health and criminal justice specialists “to explore options for the legal regulation of all drugs in Canada.”
Toronto Public Health reported that in 2017, 303 people in the city passed away from drug overdoses, up 63 per cent from the previous year.
The basic notion is to move away from treating personal drug use as a crime and observing it more as a symptom of broader social failures, including a deficiency of housing and addiction and mental health services, or viewing it first as a health issue.
“It is a public health issue and not a criminal issue,” says Tave Cole, a harm-reduction outreach worker.