Is It Time to Decriminalize All Drug Use? Millroy Weighs In.


Diehard law and order types (aka conservatives) undoubtedly will balk at any thought of decriminalizing or legalizing all drug use.

But I am all for it because I think it is evident that what we have been doing, nailing the users along with the pushers, isn’t working.

The issue of decriminalization hit the news again this week when Toronto’s board of health issued a call to the city to urge the federal government to treat all drug use, including illegal street drugs as well as tobacco, alcohol, coffee and pharmaceuticals, as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.

Calling on Canadians to turn their recommendation into a national movement, the board made the move on the recommendation of Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa.
“The only way that federal laws are going to change is if we provoke that national conversation,” said board chair Coun. Joe Mihevc, moments before an amended version of the recommendation was unanimously approved.

There have been such calls previously..
As Dr. Marlene Spruyt, Algoma’s medical officer of health, told The Sault Star, such a position has been shared by the Canadian Public Health Association and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for some time.

As well in April the Liberal Party of Canada voted in favour of removing criminal penalties for the personal possession of drugs.

Top health officials in Vancouver and B.C. have for several years called for the removal of criminal penalties for people caught with small amounts of illicit narcotics and in March the City of Vancouver officially recommended the Government of Canada immediately decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs.

This stance is backed by prominent organizations, from the Global Commission on Drug Policy to the World Health Organization.

The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs (CAPC) has not yet taken a stand on decriminalizing, or possibly legalizing, illicit drugs, but a spokesperson for the association told the CBC in April “they’re investigating the issue.”

In March, the group’s board of directors voted to put in place a special committee to look at four issues: Exploring the impact that decriminalization or legalization of drugs could have on police forces, identifying models of decriminalization, looking at existing research and identifying gaps, developing a position for the CAPC.

Waterloo Regional Police Services Chief Bryan Larkin is one who agrees it is time to have a national conversation about decriminalizing drugs in Canada, pointing out this week that the opioid crisis that has gripped the Waterloo region killed 85 people in 2017.
An estimated 4,000 Canadians died last year due to opioids, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada – more than the number of Canadians who died in motor-vehicle accidents and homicides combined.

In British Columbia, where officials declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2016, an average of four people die of overdoses each day.

Yet a stumbling block to decriminalization will be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has said he is not willing to go beyond the legalizing of marijuana that will come into force this year.

And the Conservative Party is against it, Andrew Scheer, the party’s leader, last year attacking Trudeau on Twitter, alleging that his government was considering the decriminalization of drugs beyond marijuana.

But the fact that the cries are mounting for decriminalization may give the movement legs.
Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and in the reports I read on it, the move has had positive effects.

It came after the country was in a dire heroin epidemic — where one percent of the population was addicted to opiates.According to the report containing this information, drug-related deaths in Portugal are now the second-lowest in the European Union. Just three in a million people die of overdoses there, compared with the European Union average of 17.3 per million.

If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty.

Alex Stevens, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Kent and co-author of an article on decriminalization, told the news outlet the global community should be measured in its takeaways from Portugal.

“The main lesson to learn is that decriminalizing drugs doesn’t necessarily lead to disaster, and it does free up resources for more effective responses to drug-related problems,” he said.

Portugal has not been run into the ground by a nation of drug addicts.
Nor, I would suggest, would we be.

News reports say the Toronto medical health officer’s report also suggests that Ottawa appoint a task force to examine the idea of fully legalizing and regulating the production and distribution of street drugs.

Legalization, it points out, is different from decriminalization. The type of decriminalization that Toronto and Vancouver officials support would only involve removing criminal penalties on the demand side of illicit-drug markets. Legalization, on the other hand, would see the government actually regulate both supply and demand.

I have tried here to paint a picture of a movement whose time, I think, has come, to show that other ways of handling drugs are being contemplated in this country and which are seen to be working in Portugal.

As far as I am concerned, it is definitely time we tried decriminalizing the use all drugs, placing our efforts on attempting to wean users off them and our resources on bringing traffickers to justice.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

However, I am not sure where I stand when it comes to legalization.

Somehow I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around the thought of the federal government selling heroin, cocaine or other hardline drugs along the same lines as the provinces do with beer and liquor.


  1. My problem is not the drugs, it’s the people who will commit criminal acts to get their next fix. Some guy snortin coke in his house not bothering anyone? none o’ my buisness. Some guy robbing mac’s every week at gun\knife point, THAT is the problem.

  2. Actually, there is a clinic in Vancouver where selected drug users can obtain pharmaceutical-grade heroin by prescription. The government also recently relaxed restrictions on doctors who wish to prescribe opiates for mitigating the harms stemming from opiate use disorders. In other words, heroin has already been legalized, albeit in a tightly regulated way. The Swiss have been doing this for over a decade. Methamphetamine is prescribed under the brand name Desoxyn.

  3. It is time to take aim at the people responsible for this crisis. Its not enough to incarcerate the manufacturers and pushers of these drugs, not only heroin, crack, and opiates but alcohol too. When we say punish them, we should do exactly that. Don’t just put them in prison for a couple of months and then release them to pick up where they left off. Its time to take away everything that they have monetarily and reinstitute the death sentence. These drugs not only hurt the users but also their families, innocent children, mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers. If you eliminate the root, then the rest will fix itself. So many families have been destroyed because of illicit and legal drugs, and the most vulnerable, young children/babies.
    If they realize that there is a possibility of what they are doing can send them to the “gas chamber” or that every single thing that own will be taken away, maybe they will change their ways or maybe their families will convince them that the lifestyle is no longer available.
    The list of sellers is a long one. It includes respected doctors, pharmacists, politicians, and the guy up the street that owns that $1,000,000 house that everyone thinks is a pillar of the community. The list goes on to include the low life that is just selling the stuff to survive the next day and/or sell enough to get his/her next fix.
    If the product is no longer there then the problem might be fixed. It might take a long time but it will get fixed, and this does not mariguana.

  4. What should be done is what actually works. We seem to be unwilling to let go of the quasi-religious wagging finger that loves to point at moral failings in indignation and dish out punishments…rather than to seek effective preventive actions. If other countries have made decriminalization work, then we would be most stupid not to at least study and learn from that – and emulate it, if it makes sense to.

  5. It should be decriminalized immediately and those people placed where they can get help in a health setting. Enough is enough. It is just a vicious cycle of incarceration that helps no one. Not the public, not the families or friends and definitely not the individual.

  6. Portugal has closed several jails because of this and has put those tax dollars into treatment. Someone arrested and sent to jail for narcotics rarely receive the proper treatment and continue their drug use when released. A major hurdle in this is political. No party as of now will run with this platform of legalization or decriminalization for fear of losing the baby boomer vote and losing the election. We will have to change the minds of millions before this is enacted. Any doubters please read about Portugal and their successes before you say we will become a nation of “druggies”. What we are doing right now is not working and it is progressively getting worse by the day.

    • Plus, we have to consider the outrage from all the religiously-minded communities that prefer the satisfaction (if dubious effectiveness) of the failed punitive model.

  7. As a social minded conservative, I totally am in agreement of decriminalizing all drugs. It is a health issue not a criminal issue. Let’s give addicts the support they need to deal with their addiction so they can have a positive contribution to society. It saves money in the long run too!

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