A report released last month from a House of Commons committee in Canada called for the country to decriminalize all drugs. It was part of an effort to treat addiction as a public health issue, following rising rates of methamphetamine addiction. The Standing Committee on Health advised the government to “undertake an evaluation of Portugal’s approach to the decriminalization of simple possession of illicit substances and examine how it could be positively applied to Canada.”
Now, one Canadian lawmaker is taking the proposal one step further. Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith recently introduced legislation that would repeal parts of federal laws that concern controlled substances in Canada, as Marijuana Moment first reported. The bill would effectively decriminalize possession of all illicit drugs.
“It does not mean removing the criminal sanction for producing or trafficking, but for personal use by the very people we want to help, it means treating patients as patients and not as criminals,” Erskine-Smith said when introducing the legislation. “That is exactly what this bill seeks to do by removing the criminal sanction for low-level possession. It is a necessary next step in following the evidence to save lives.”
Erskine-Smith has long advocated for decriminalization as a solution to the country’s opioid crisis. In Erskine-Smith’s estimation, possible criminal charges for drug possession persuade Canadians suffering with addiction from receiving the help they need. While federally legalizing marijuana was “about treating Canadians like responsible adults,” decriminalization is “about saving lives.”
The opioid and meth crises continue to kill thousands of Canadians. We need to treat drug use as a health issue, remove the criminal sanction for small drug possession, and follow the evidence to save lives. https://t.co/8HPEAHEqXw
— Nate Erskine-Smith (@beynate) June 12, 2019
“When you have such a serious issue and a clear policy response that every expert has embraced, we really need to follow the evidence,” Erskine-Smith told CBC. “Fundamentally, we should treat drug use as a health issue.”
The current probability of Erskine-Smith’s bill passing is low. Canada’s Parliament is currently shut down for a summer break before the country’s October election. Once that date passes, any lingering legislation that hasn’t received any action will expire. However, Erskine-Smith promises that if he is re-elected, his decriminalization bill will be the first one he re-introduces.