Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jan 2018
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Prince George Citizen
Author: Joan Bryden
Page: 14


OTTAWA - Even as Justin Trudeau prepares to deliver on his promise to
legalize recreational marijuana, Liberal MPs are pushing the
government to eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession and
consumption of all illicit drugs.

The prime minister has so far drawn the line at pot legalization, but
he's now being pressured to go much further in a resolution developed
by the national Liberal caucus for consideration at the federal
party's national policy convention in April in Halifax.

It is one of 39 resolutions that the party opened up for online
discussion Tuesday.

Others call for the decriminalization of prostitution, establishing a
minimum guaranteed income, expanding universal health care to include
coverage of prescription drugs and building a fixed-link bridge from
the mainland to Newfoundland and Labrador.

On illegal drugs, the caucus resolution urges the government to adopt
the model instituted in 2001 in Portugal, where treatment and harm
reduction services were expanded and criminal penalties eliminated for
low-level possession and consumption of all illicit drugs.

There, a person found in possession of a drug for personal use is no
longer arrested but ordered to appear before a "dissuasion commission"
which can refer the person to a voluntary treatment program or impose
administrative sanctions.

Since Portugal adopted the new approach, the resolution says, "the
number of deaths from drug overdoses has dropped significantly,
adolescent and problematic drug use has decreased, the number of
people in drug treatment has increased, the number of people arrested
and sent to criminal courts has declined by 60 per cent, and the per
capita social cost of drug misuse has decreased by 18 per cent."

The resolution urges the government to treat drug abuse as a health
issue, to expand treatment and harm reduction services and re-classify
low-level drug possession and consumption "as administrative

The MPs are touting the Portugal model as a way to deal with the
opioid crisis. Almost 3,000 Canadians died from opioidrelated causes
in 2016, a number that's expected to have grown in 2017, they note in
the resolution.

Online discussion of the resolutions will run until Feb.

Through an online vote, the 39 resolutions will then be whittled down
to 30 that will be debated at the convention.

 From those 30, Liberals at the convention will choose up to 15
priority resolutions that they want included in the party's election
platform in 2019.

The Halifax convention is the first to be held since the party did
away with paid memberships and opened itself up to anyone willing to
register, for free, as a Liberal.

Registered supporters can now take part in policy development, attend
conventions and vote in leadership or local riding nomination contests.

The 39 resolutions represent the top three priorities chosen by
grassroots Liberals in each province and territory, as well as by the
party's youth, indigenous and seniors' commissions and the national

The online discussion and vote on the 39 is open to all registered
Liberals, who are also entitled, on a first-come, first-served basis,
to attend the convention.

Under the traditional process, in which each riding association across
the country elected delegates to attend conventions, the party could
ensure a reasonable gender, age and regional balance among attendees.

That won't be possible under the new, more open approach. But the
party is attempting to ensure as many people as possible will be able
to attend by keeping convention fees much lower than it has charged in
the past.

Youth who register before Feb. 9 to go to the convention will pay just
$95, while adults will be charged an early-bird fee of $349. Those who
register after Feb. 9, will pay an additional $100.

Registration for the convention opened on the weekend and the party
says hundreds have already signed up.
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MAP posted-by: Matt