Pubdate: Mon, 23 Apr 2018
Source: Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 The Straight
Author: Travis Lupick


The Liberal Party of Canada has voted in favour of removing criminal
penalties for the personal possession of drugs.

It'€™s one of a number of policies that the party selected as
priorities at a convention in Halifax on Saturday (April 21).

Members also voted in favour of universal pharmacare, decriminalizing
consensual sex work, and expanding medicare to cover mental-health

A total of 15 policies were selected to become official party

However, a policy'€™s status as a party priority does not mean that
party leaders have to include it in the document where it really
counts: the party'€™s campaign platform for the next federal election.

And on the policy that'€™s attracted the most attention since
Saturday €"decriminalizing drugs,€" Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has
said that it'€™s not going to happen.

"We'll of course reflect on next steps for a broad range of issues
they bring up. On that particular issue, as I've said, it's not part
of our plans," Trudeau said at a press conference after the results of
the party vote were released.

Trudeau'€™s opposition to drug decriminalization is one he has
reiterated several times over the last year.

"€œWe'€™re not looking at decriminalization or legalization of any
other drugs other than what we'€™re doing with marijuana,"€ Trudeau
told Global News while in B.C. last August.

The Liberal health minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, said the same
thing in the House of Commons last February.

"We are not looking at decriminalizing or legalizing any other drugs
aside from cannabis, as decriminalizing would not ensure quality
control of drugs, and there would still be the risk of contamination
on the streets,a€ Petitpas Taylor said in response to a question from
NDP MP Don Davies.

Calls for the Liberal party to adopt a position in favour of
decriminalizing drugs have grown in volume and frequency as Canada'€™s
opioid crisis has intensified.

Last year, there were 1,436 illicit-drug overdose deaths across B.C.
That compares to an average of 204 deaths annually for the years 2001
to 2010. More than 80 percent of 2017 deaths were associated with
fentanyl, a synthetic opioid significantly more toxic than heroin.

On March 9, the City of Vancouver joined calls for decriminalization
when it officially "œrecommended"€ that Canada "€œimmediately"
decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs, including hard
drugs like cocaine and heroin.

In Canada, drugs like cocaine, heroin, and illicit fentanyl are
illegal at the federal level. They'€™re listed in Canada'€™s
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which describes their possession
as a criminal offence. That means you can go to jail simply for having
these substances in your pocket, which leads people to hide their drug

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, in 2017, 59 percent of fatal
overdoses occurred inside, in a private residence, while another 25
percent occurred inside another sort of residence, such as a hotel
room or shelter. Only 11.5 percent occurred outside.

Advocates for decriminalization maintain that by removing criminal
penalties for possession,A people will be encouraged to seek treatment
for an addiction and to use drugs more openly, in areas where there is
someone present to intervene in the event of an overdose.

Decriminalization is a relatively simple process. It would involve
removing sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that
apply to the personal possession of the drugs in question.

The federal NDP and Greens both officially support decriminalization. 
The Conservatives oppose it.

Canada'™s next federal election is scheduled to occur by October 2019.
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MAP posted-by: Matt