Pubdate: Mon, 06 Mar 2017
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Authors: David P. Ball & Jen St. Denis
Page: 6


Health officer says it's the only real solution to emergency

Vancouver's chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly called on
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday to decriminalize all illicit
drugs, labelling it the only real solution to a mounting death toll.

At a press conference Friday morning, Trudeau said an earlier expert
roundtable and tour of the Downtown Eastside in a police car was "an
incredibly emotional opportunity" to listen and "see people struggle
with an almost insurmountable challenge."

But Metro was unable to ask Trudeau about Daly's proposal, because his
office only permitted media to ask five questions between them -
granting two extra after Metro protested that a five-question limit
was a hallmark of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

(Trudeau's press secretary countered that he made "hundreds" of
Vancouver availabilities last year, and that he was about to sit down
with the founder of the Daily Hive blog).

When asked if Trudeau would offer dedicated funding toward the opioid
crisis, Trudeau dodged the question.

"We have committed as a government to do more," he replied. "We know
there is much more to do .... It's really important for all Canadians
to know that this is something that we cannot continue to ignore, we
cannot continue to stigmatize."

Daly praised Ottawa for supporting overdose prevention sites and
making it easier to prescribe heroin - though currently only 130
patients are allowed it, despite clear evidence of its efficacy.

"What I really want to see, and this government may not be ready to go
here yet, is that I think that we need to decriminalize all illicit
drugs quite urgently because this crisis is a crisis of a contaminated
illicit drug supply," Daly told Metro in a phone interview.

The health officer clarified she was not talking about creating a
legal market for illicit drugs like heroin, but "a regulatory approach
that means essentially legalizing all psychoactive substances but
strictly controlling their distribution."

The overdose death rate has shot up because the entire illicit drug
supply has become contaminated with the powerful synthetic opioid
fentanyl, and even more potent variations of the drug such as

Coupled with increased access to doctor-controlled programs such as
prescription heroin or hydromorphone, decriminalizing all illicit
drugs would reduce the stigma that pushes many drug users to use
alone, where no one can come to their aid should they overdose, Daly

But the money currently spent on enforcement could also be redirected
to social programs to reduce poverty, homelessness and childhood
neglect - the "social determinants of health" that are the root causes
of addiction, Daly said, as Portugal did when it decriminalized drugs.

"So I would say: start now, decriminalize all drugs and begin the
discussion about a regulatory approach to all psychoactive
substances," she added. "Just as the government's done with marijuana,
we need to start doing that with all drugs."
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