It looks like Toronto could soon be one step closer to decriminalizing drugs for personal use. The city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has released a recommendation that explains why residents should be allowed to carry small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use.
According to a news release from the City, de Villa will present the plan to Toronto’s board of health on December 6th. The board will then vote on the decision to ask the federal government if Torontonians can be exempt from the charges.
This decision is in response to the “81% increase in reported overdose deaths in Toronto over the past year and concern about the increasing role of ultra-potent opioids,” the release says. The emergency is described as a drug poisoning crisis, and de Villa says the current response is inadequate.
“Residents in our city are currently experiencing two public health emergencies– the COVID-19 pandemic and the drug poisoning crisis,” she said in the release. “The current approach to the drug poisoning crisis is not working and we continue to see tragic outcomes that are preventable.”
So, #Toronto Med Officer Health @epdevilla recommending Bd of Health move ahead w fed request to decriminalize small possession illicit drugs in city.
BY ME from Sept:
Toronto gets to work on requesting exemption from fed drug criminalization lawshttps://t.co/edIYT7D51A pic.twitter.com/bPMBtqltHI
— Joanna Lavoie (@JoannaLavoie) November 29, 2021
“Treating substance use as a health challenge, rather than a criminal act, will help create pathways to support and save lives.”
Drug trafficking will of course remain illegal, and the goal of this move will be to shift the City’s approach to the crisis. “Substance use is a health issue, not a criminal issue,” says the statement.
Decriminalization is only part of the solution. The City is calling on “new provincial and federal investments and improved access to safer supply programs, harm reduction, and treatment services,” to help resolve the issue.
Toronto is one of several cities across Canada asking the federal government for support to decriminalize illegal drugs. Vancouver, Kingston, Montreal, and Ottawa are making similar requests, and the initiative is also supported by law enforcement and the province of British Columbia.