The Liberal caucus is calling on the Trudeau government to remove all criminal penalties for simple possession and use of illegal drugs in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had previously ruled out legalization of illegal drugs other than marijuana, but Liberal MPs are still hoping that the proposal will be considered at the party’s policy convention this April for inclusion in the next election platform.
The model they are pushing is similar to that which is currently in place in Portugal, where it has proven to be very successful. Instead of arresting people who are found in possession of a drug for personal use, they are ordered to appear before a “dissuasion commission” which refers them to appropriate treatment programs.
Since the rollout of this system, illegal drug usage, overdoses, deaths, and drug abuse-related costs have all decreased in the country.
"We're certainly not talking about legalizing all drugs here. We’re talking about a step that would decriminalize [drug use],” said Liberal MP Nathaniel Erksine-Smith on the issue. “I think the easiest way of thinking about it is we currently use the criminal justice system to tackle drug abuse and let's use the health system as much as possible to tackle drug abuse instead."
Several Canadians have shown support for the proposal, noting that the current approach of using the criminal justice system to rectify the country’s drug abuse problem has not been very effective:
But not everyone is happy with the idea. Conservatives are strongly opposed to decriminalizing other drugs, and believe it will just make the drug situation in Canada even messier than it already is.
“To do anything that does anything except discourage people from taking opioids and strong drugs I think is a mistake," said Conservative Rob Nicholson. “If you're saying it's OK to consume this, you're not sending out the message here that this is a huge problem that tears families apart, destroys peoples' health, decreases the safety within this country. Because who's going to be providing them with this? These are the criminal elements."
Still, Liberals assure that all the evidence shows decriminalization is the smart move. They hope that Canadians can “get past the politics” of it all and focus on the bigger picture.