Pressure is building toward decriminalizing all drugs in Canada. This outcome will have the effect of making drugs easily available and, therefore, more readily consumed because there would be no legal sanctions prohibiting their use. Legalization of drugs makes them accessible and socially acceptable. As a result, the consumption of drugs is increased, especially by young people, who equate legalization with a lower degree of harm.
The Liberal Party had planned to decriminalize drugs, as evidenced by the following:
- The Liberal Party, at its policy convention in April 2019, passed a non-binding resolution in support of decriminalization of drugs.
- In June 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, controlled by the Liberal majority, recommended the decriminalization of small quantities of illicit substances.
This plan, however, may have been changed with the election in October, when the Liberals were reduced to a minority government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is stating now that the decriminalization of small quantities of drugs “is not part of our plans”. Recently appointed Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, in January 2020, explained that the decriminalization of drugs would not take place since it was “premature” to do so, owing to the lack of treatment beds. By this statement, she has acknowledged that decriminalization of drugs could increase the number of addicts and that the current number of treatment beds would not be sufficient to care for those in need.
Should the Liberals decide to proceed with decriminalization, they would not have difficulty doing so in this minority Parliament. The Green Party supports the decriminalization of all drug possession on the basis that it will curb the opioid crisis in Canada. According to former leader, Elizabeth May (who remains a sitting MP), “We must stop treating drug addiction as a criminal issue. This is a national health emergency.” The federal NDP, at its national convention held in February 2018, passed a resolution to end the criminalization of the personal possession of all drugs, arguing that illicit drug use should be treated as a social justice and healthcare issue, rather than a criminal matter. This notion fails to take into consideration the fact that that legal sanctions against the use of drugs serves as a remarkable deterrent to their use.
Sweden, a country noted for its liberal views, has found a viable solution to drug addiction. The country stands out as a model for a more restrictive drug policy. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Sweden experienced a large scale drug problem, which created a drug epidemic. In 1998, Sweden changed its drug policy to include strong law enforcement and mandatory treatment. Treatment facilities are widely available in Sweden. As a result of its policy, Sweden has the lowest rate of drug use in Europe.
It’s only a matter of time before the Liberal government decides that decriminalization is a “go”, since it will be supported by the left wing parties.
Canada needs fewer people addicted to drugs, not more, which would be the consequence of decriminalizing drugs.