Vancouver wants to be the first North American city to decriminalize illegal drugs.
According to the Vancouver Courier, the city announced the policy on Friday as a response to the increasing number of heroine and opioid deaths, calling for the Trudeau government to “convene a multi-sectoral task force to implement immediate decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs.”
Vancouver’s social policy director, Mary Clare Zak, said that making all drugs legal will help reduce the number overdoses.
“The Portugal model in itself is successful because there are options for treatment, rehabilitation and those kinds of things,” Zak told the Courier. “All of these things have to happen in sympatico for a decriminalization model to be successful.”
“The Portugal model” emphasizes harm reduction in conjunction with treatment instead of arrests and incarceration. However, the plan does not offer any incentives for addicts to seek treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
Vancouver already operates two of the controversial supervised injection sites, where heroin addicts can legally shoot-up under the eyes of medical professionals. The sites have not reduced the number of fatal overdoses in the city, with 365 of these occurring in 2017. The province of British Columbia, provincial home of Canada’s third-largest city, set a record for drug overdoses in 2017 — hitting 1,000 by August.
“The fact is people are dying. We need some action,” Zak told the Courier. “Until we get things like clean drug supply, decriminalization and really see this as a public health issue, we’re going to continue to have a year like we did this past year.”
Although Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes to legalize recreational marijuana in Canada by July of this year, he continues to say other illegal drugs will remain so. The quasi-socialist New Democratic Party is calling for blanket decriminalization.