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Federal Liberals debate decriminalizing all drugs in Canada

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Summary

MP proposes decriminalizing all drugs nation-wide as Canada grapples with opioid crisis

Potential showdown in Ottawa could lead to legalized marijuana delays

OTTAWA, ON. (NEWS 1130) – As people across the country prepare for the legalization of marijuana, federal Liberals are attending their party convention where they are debating a policy resolution that calls for decriminalizing all drugs.

The idea is to take a health-based approach to drug use and addiction.

The resolution is aimed at eliminating criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs, and instead of sending offenders to judges, they are sent to health panels instead.


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Toronto MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith has been pushing for decriminalization for some time and says this is already being done in Portugal, where it has been a success. “The number of people who sought treatment increased by over 60 per cent. The number of overdose deaths and drug-related deaths decreased by 80 per cent.”

Even drug use has gone down. “It’s important simply to save lives,” he adds. “If you are requiring treatment, [the panel] will suggest that you seek treatment or require that you seek treatment as the need may be.”

Erskine-Smith is hopeful the resolution will be passed by the party this weekend, but is well aware the Trudeau government has already said this is not an option on the table. However, he hopes that in the long run he’s starting a conversation that will lead to change.

This idea comes at a time as the country deals with a growing opioid crisis.

In BC, the then-Liberal government declared the overdose crisis a public health emergency as the provinces continues to set new records for the number of drug-related deaths.

Pot bill review may lead to delays

As pot smokers light up for 4/20, some political experts are warning the bill to legalize recreational pot in Canada could be in line for another parliamentary showdown over the next couple of months.

The legislation is before the Upper Chamber but senators of all stripes have been raising concerns about policing, foreign policy and public health

Maclean’s Magazine Ottawa Bureau Chief John Geddes believes the legislation likely won’t have a smooth passage in the weeks ahead. “What they’re probably going to do is propose amendments and kick it back to the House of Commons sometime in May or possibly even into June.”

That could lead to another parliamentary battle where the bill is tossed back and forth between the House of Commons and the Senate until one side gives in.

Geddes points out in previous cases the House wins, which means the bill should be passed during the spring sitting, with legalization taking effect in late summer or early fall.

There is however a slim possibility that the bill isn’t passed until the fall, which could push legalization to next year.