Old Thinking to New Thinking
“It’s one of the few issues where we’re taught from a young age, that drugs are bad and that it’s normal to throw people in jail for using drugs,” said Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a Liberal MP who has championed decriminalisation since he was elected in 2015.
“Yet when you actually start looking underneath those claims and at the actual evidence and hear from people who have study or lived this issue, that isn’t the right approach.”
Framing drug use as a criminal justice issue rather than one of health has simply served to fuel a lucrative black market, divert resources from law enforcement and marginalise those who are often already on the margins of society.
According to this article in The Guardian, some members of the Liberal party, the city of Vancouver, and others have called for the immediate decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs. Earlier this year, Canada’s New Democratic Party became the first major party to officially champion the idea that possession and use of small quantities of drugs are a public health issue, not a criminal one.
Their stance is backed by prominent organisations, from the Global Commission on Drug Policy to the World Health Organization. Many of them point to the experience of Portugal, which in 2001 did away with criminal penalties for simple possession and consumption of illicit drugs, coupled with an expansion of treatment and harm reduction services such as safe injection sites. Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdose deaths, HIV infection rates and drug-related crimes, while the number of drug users seeking treatment has increased.
Note that there is a difference legalizing, like Canada is doing with cannabis, and decriminalization. Decriminalization does not make it legal to make or sell a drug.
Under decriminalization, law enforcement is instructed to look the other way when it comes to the possession of small amounts of drugs meant for personal use. The drugs are still illegal, but getting caught with them is usually a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record. The production and sales of the drug are still criminal.
Legalization eliminates the laws that banning the possession and personal use of the drug. It allows the government to regulate the production and tax the sales of the drug.
More about the call for decriminalization within Canada theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/16/canada-liberal-party-considers-decriminalization-all-illicit-drugs
More about Portugal’s experience with decriminalization independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/portugal-decriminalised-drugs-14-years-ago-and-now-hardly-anyone-dies-from-overdosing