Article by Justine Hunter, The Globe and Mail
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is rejecting recommendations from British Columbia’s top health officials to widen the scope of his government’s decriminalization agenda beyond marijuana to help stem the country’s growing opioid crisis.
Mr. Trudeau will meet Friday with health experts in Vancouver to discuss Canada’s response to the rising toll of overdose deaths, the latest in a series of meetings where he has engaged with British Columbians on the front lines of the deadly opioid battle.
The Prime Minister quietly met with first responders in the Downtown Eastside last December. At that time, British Columbia was tallying its worst year for drug overdoses and in January, his government promised $10-million in additional health funding for B.C. to boost its response to a fentanyl-fuelled epidemic.
Top health officials in British Columbia are calling for a significant change to Canada’s existing drug policy to ensure people do not face criminal charges for using illicit drugs. But Mr. Trudeau said that, while he hopes to introduce legislation before the summer to legalize marijuana, he is not prepared to decriminalize other illicit drugs.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who is on the front lines,” he said. “I always listen very carefully to what they have to say. But at the same time, I can absolutely confirm that we are moving forward on a framework to regulate and control marijuana to protect our kids and keep our communities safer from organized crime, and we are not planning on including any other illicit substances in the movement toward legalizing, controlling and regulating.”