Article by Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press via CTV News
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 violations.”
The MPs are touting the Portugal model as a way to deal with the opioid crisis. Almost 3,000 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016, a number that’s expected to have grown in 2017, they note in the resolution.
Through an online vote, the 39 resolutions will then be whittled down to 30 that will be debated at the convention.