Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Camille Bains
Page: B6


VANCOUVER - Canada's political leaders must take bold action by
joining forces to decriminalize illicit drugs and save lives in the
midst of an unprecedented overdose crisis, a leading drug-policy
expert says.

Donald MacPherson of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition said Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau's stance on legalizing marijuana to protect
youth and stop the flow of profits to organized crime must also apply
to drugs that have killed thousands of Canadians.

"That's very sad that he can't see the logic that he's using so loudly
on cannabis to shift that logic to a far more serious problem,"
MacPherson said Wednesday.

MacPherson, who was the architect of Vancouver's fourpillar drug
strategy in 2001, will receive the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in
Support of Controversy at Simon Fraser University on Oct. 10,
recognizing his national influence on drug policy reform beyond harm
reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement.

He said the toxic supply of the painkiller fentanyl, detected in 81
per cent of the opioid-related deaths in British Columbia cries out
for drastic action by politicians, who must put politics aside as they
tackle addiction and mental illness as a health issue, not a criminal

"Mental health and addiction is definitely complex terrain but the
drug policy that we continue to cling to, drug prohibition, is
actually like a hammer," MacPherson said.

The failure of cannabis prohibition led to its upcoming legalization
and prohibition of other drugs like heroin and cocaine has led to a
thriving black market and mounting deaths, often because of fentanyl
contamination, he said.

But the federal government is ignoring that reality, MacPherson said,
while calling on Trudeau to "do the right thing" by following
Portugal's example to decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs for
personal use.

The prime minister has already said Canada would not be taking that

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh favours decriminalization, saying
most people who face drug charges are poor, mentally ill or addicted.

NDP health critic Don Davies accused Trudeau of ignoring
evidence-based drug policies for political reasons.

"The precise same arguments that underlie the decriminalization
approach to cannabis apply with equal force to other drugs," he said.
"Things like taking the black market and organized crime out of it and
making sure that at the very least if Canadians are going to use drugs
they have access to a safe, regulated supply, and keeping it out of
the hands of children."

Davies said he recognizes that decriminalization is a substantial
social, legal and political shift but all sectors of society,
including the public, the medical profession, police forces and
addiction experts must work together to deal with a pressing problem.

He called the Conservatives' stance against decriminalization to
combat the opioid crisis "outdated, outmoded, ideological and harmful."

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladue said decriminalization won't
stop illicit drug use because "these people are doing it anyways." She
said the government must prevent drugs from coming into the country
and mount public awareness campaigns to try and stop people from
trying drugs in the first place.

At least 2,816 Canadians died last year from opioid-related causes but
Canada's public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said that number
is expected to surpass 3,000 by the end of 2017.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt