A group of lawmakers in Canada wants the country to move much further than cannabis legalization. They want the country to decriminalize all illegal drugs. With Canadian lawmakers pushing to decriminalize all drugs, conversations about drug laws and public health are receiving heightened attention.
Decriminalization Sparks Debate
A group of Liberal Members of Parliament (MPs) is now calling on the federal government to decriminalize the possession and use of all illegal drugs. Lawmakers in this group are pushing to get a broad decriminalization bill on the 2019 federal election ballot.
The idea is grabbing attention throughout the country and is sparking some lively debate. Liberal lawmakers in favor of the proposal see it as a way of effectively treating drug abuse problems by reframing addiction. They want people to see it as a public health concern rather than a criminal one.
Those in favor of decriminalization cite other countries who have made similar changes as evidence that this approach works. In particular, many have pointed to Portugal. Starting in 2001, Portugal got rid of criminal penalties for possessing and consuming drugs. Instead of arresting, prosecuting, fining, and jailing people who use drugs, the country has re-routed resources toward expanding a variety of health services.
“We see on all the metrics that matter, in terms of a public health approach, positive success stories,” Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith told sources. “I think the easiest way of thinking about it is we currently use the criminal justice system to tackle drug abuse and let’s use the health system as much as possible to tackle drug abuse instead.”
On the other hand, Conservative lawmakers have expressed concerns over the proposal. Many see it as encouraging drug abuse rather than discouraging it.
“If you’re saying it’s OK to consume this, you’re not sending out the message here that this is a huge problem that tears families apart, destroys peoples’ health, decreases the safety within this country,” said Conservative justice critic Rob Nicholson. “Because who’s going to be providing them with this? These are the criminal elements.”
The proposal to decriminalize all drugs in Canada comes as the country prepares to legalize cannabis. For years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has voiced his intention to make weed legal at the federal level.
After several years of laying the groundwork, the country is now pushing for a deadline of July 2018. In recent months, lawmakers have made concrete legislative steps toward accomplishing that goal.
Importantly, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould officially introduced Bill C-45, also known as The Cannabis Act, to Parliament last April. Then, in November 2017, the bill received widespread support among lawmakers. It won in a 200 to 82 vote. Although that vote did not make weed legal, it was a key step in the process.
Obviously, the more recent proposal of decriminalizing all illegal drugs goes much further than cannabis legalization. As of now, it is unclear whether or not such an idea has enough support to make its way onto an official ballot.