Should Toronto push to decriminalize all drugs? The city's medical health officer ready to consider it

Posted
August 4, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

Toronto's new Medical Officer of Health is calling for a public discussion on the merits of decriminalizing all drugs in the wake of the ongoing overdose epidemic.

"It's clear that our current approach to drugs in this city and this country doesn't seem to be having the desired impact," Dr. Eileen De Villa told reporters Friday at a briefing on how the city is responding to drug users overdosing and, in some cases, dying.

There have been six suspected fatal overdoses since the weekend, including two teens found dead in an Etobicoke highrise. In addition, Toronto emergency wards treated 79 people suspected of overdosing during the last week of July. It's not yet clear how many were deaths.

Last year, it's believed more than 2,400 Canadians died as a result of opioid-related overdoses.

On Friday, following Thursday's emergency meeting of city partners, De Villa reviewed with reporters the city's overdose prevention strategies which include asking police to carry the fentanyl antidote and speeding up the opening of three safe injection sites.

De Villa said among the 10 key strategies in Toronto's Overdose Action plan is a call for a public health approach to drug policy that puts the health of the community first, "rather than looking at this as an issue of criminal behavior and or an area for law enforcement."

The city is convening a committee of health and drug policy experts to explore "a different approach that puts the health of the community first," she said.

While acknowledging the city doesn't have the power to change the Criminal Code, "Toronto has always been a leader … in policy and I don't see why we wouldn’t continue to be a leader on this front," said De Villa, who stepped into her high-profile position four months ago.

Should Toronto push to decriminalize all drugs? The city's medical health officer ready to consider it