Public officials in Toronto have laid out a sweeping plan to decriminalize all narcotics, including crack cocaine and fentanyl, for drug users of all ages.
In a letter signed by the city’s medical officer of health, city manager, and chief of police, officials say they are pursuing drug decriminalization to reduce the “stigma and discrimination” against those who use drugs.
“In a city as diverse as Toronto, with many different patterns of drug use and communities, the model of decriminalization should apply to all drugs,” the letter states. “The Toronto model of decriminalization should remove the harms associated with criminalization for as many people as possible, which includes youth.”
Toronto officials also argue that decriminalization for adolescents is a sound policy strategy because criminal penalties for drugs do not deter youth substance abuse.
“There is limited evidence available to suggest that decriminalization leads to an increase in drug use behaviours, but there is substantial evidence that tells us that youth in Toronto are using unregulated drugs,” according to the letter.
According to the latest data, more than 18 percent of Canadian students in grades 7 to 12 use marijuana, 3.5 percent use hallucinogens, 2.2 percent use cocaine, 2 percent use MDMA (Ecstasy), and 1.3 percent use amphetamines.
Twenty percent of accidental opioid overdose deaths in Canada in 2021 were among individuals under the age of 30.
Toronto’s decriminalization effort would only apply to drugs in possession for personal use, not distribution.
The proposal calls for replacing criminal charges for the possession of drugs for personal use with a referral card to connect users to “a range of health and social supports.”
In February, a former British Columbia police officer and drug addict said that decriminalization policies don’t work.
“I’ve never met a person who uses drugs, including myself, that didn’t get help because they felt ‘stigmatized,'” said Giuseppe Ganci, who told the Epoch Times that addicts don’t seek treatment because they “like” drugs and “don’t want to stop using.”
“Decriminalization does not stop overdoses — dissuasion does, prevention does,” he added.