Toronto should decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs as a response to the worsening opioid overdose crisis, recommends a new report from the city’s medical officer of health.
Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the federal Minister of Health can provide municipalities and provinces with an exemption from the provisions that criminalize drugs if there is a medical purpose or if it is deemed to be in the public interest.
Supervised consumption sites, where drug users consume drugs under the supervision of trained health workers, operate legally under similar exemptions.
Jeanette Bowles, a postdoctoral fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital with the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation, said decriminalization will help reduce the stigma associated with drug use.
“Stigma can lead to shame. Shame can lead to folks using drugs alone. Using drugs alone is a very high risk factor for overdose death, as there’s no one around to intervene,” said Bowles.