Article by Kate Robertson, Lift News
At its policy convention last week, the NDP made a formal commitment to decriminalize possession of all drugs, not just cannabis, to combat the opioid epidemic at its policy convention in late February. Now, Liberal MPs are asking members of the party to communicate their support of the same initiative.
Between now and March 18, registered Liberals can vote onlineto prioritize the Liberal caucus’s drug policy resolution. If the idea makes the top 30 of 39 resolutions, it will be included in debates at the party’s April convention in Halifax.
“I believe that we should treat drug use and abuse as a health issue, and not as a crime. We know that prohibition policies – the so-called “war on drugs” – has been an abject failure,” wrote Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith in an email. “We need evidence-based solutions instead. To that end, other countries have had success with more progressive drug policies.”
The Portuguese government decriminalized low-level possession of all drugs in 2001. Instead, medical experts, social workers and legal professionals work together to create treatment plans, issue fines or assign community service duties to those possessing drugs. Since that time, overdoses and drug-related deaths decreased from 131 in 2001 to 20 in 2008, and the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction has increased by 60 per cent.
In Canada, 7000 opioid-related deaths have been reported in the last two years.
“We have expanded safe injection sites, and are working to expand treatment options, but we need to continue to follow the evidence if we want to save lives,” Erskine-Smith says.