A Canadian lawmaker recently introduced a bill to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs.
The legislation, filed by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, would repeal a section of Canada’s federal drug laws that concerns possession of controlled substances.
It’s not expected to be approved, at least this session, as Canada’s Parliament shut down for summer recess ahead of the October election. At that time, bills that haven’t been acted on will expire, but Erskine-Smith pledged to reintroduce his proposal if he’s reelected.
The lawmaker has long advocated for drug decriminalization, arguing that imposing criminal penalties for personal use of illicit substances prevents people from seeking treatment and has contributed to the opioid crisis.
“When you have such a serious issue and a clear policy response that every expert has embraced, we really need to follow the evidence,” he told CBC last month. “Fundamentally, we should treat drug use as a health issue.”
The opioid and meth crises continue to kill thousands of Canadians. We need to treat drug use as a health issue, remove the criminal sanction for small drug possession, and follow the evidence to save lives. https://t.co/8HPEAHEqXw
— Nate Erskine-Smith (@beynate) June 12, 2019
Erskine-Smith also contrasted the legalization of marijuana with his plan, stating that cannabis reform was “about treating Canadians like responsible adults,” where decriminalization is “about saving lives.”
While the leader of his party, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has voiced opposition to decriminalizing illegal drugs, the proposal got a recent boost from a key House of Commons committee, which released a report earlier this month recommending the policy change.
The report stated that the federal government should “work with provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities and law enforcement agencies to decriminalize the simple possession of small quantities of illicit substances.”
The committee agreed with Erskine-Smith that treating drug abuse as a public health issue would empower individuals to seek treatment at a time when the country is experiencing increased opioid overdose deaths and rising rates of methamphetamine addiction.
Elsewhere, Malaysia’s health minister said last week that the country’s government is moving to decriminalizing drug possession.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Policarpio.