Decriminalize all drugs for personal use, Toronto Public Health recommends in new report

Posted
July 9, 2018

City council should push the federal government to decriminalize the possession of all drugs for personal use while scaling up harm reduction efforts, Toronto Public Health is recommending.

The recommendation comes following a public consultation process that found many Torontonians don't believe the current approach to dealing with drugs is working — especially with opioid-overdose deaths reaching record levels across Canada.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, said in a news release that the criminalization of those who use drugs is adding to the problem.

"It forces people into unsafe drug use practices and creates barriers to seeking help," she said in a news release.

In 2017, Ontario's chief coroner found there were 303 opioid overdose deaths in Toronto. That marks a 121 per cent increase from 2015.

The city has responded by opening several supervised-injection sites, however many who work with drug users warn it's not enough. De Villa's report seems to agree.

"While considerable work has been done, the situation remains urgent and too many people are still dying," she said in a statement.

"This is why I am calling on the federal government to take urgent action."

Toronto Public Health is also recommending the federal government create a task force — one that would include everyone from drug users to legal experts to healthcare professionals — to look at the legal regulation of all drugs.

The city's board of health is set to vote on the matter next Monday.

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