Canada's Liberal Party Wants to Decriminalize All Drugs As the Country Is Rocked by an Opioid Epidemic

Members of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party called on the government to decriminalize the consumption and possession of all illegal drugs.

The call was made as an opioid epidemic rocked the country and the number of opioid-related deaths continues to rise. Canada’s Public Health Agency estimated that around 4,000 people died from opioids last year. 

Lawmakers have been taking a proactive approach to combating Canada’s opioid epidemic, greenlighting the opening of new supervised and safe injection facilities. In March, Canada’s federal government announced $150 million in emergency funding to increase access to drug treatment around the country.

But it’s unclear whether the Liberal Party advocates can succeed in obtaining complete decriminalization. Canada is already set to become the first of the world's seven largest advanced economies to legalize marijuana consumption. Complete legalization was expected by July, but the government recently announced that there will likely be a delay. Trudeau has also signaled that he is not prepared to support the decriminalization of other drugs; meanwhile the country’s Conservative Party is vocally opposed to legalization of any kind. 

Nevertheless, the Liberal Party is preparing to debate a handful of resolutions during its national convention this week, and Liberal Party members are expected to push for new drug policies. Leaders in places experiencing the drug crisis firsthand, such as the city of Vancouver, have called for the complete decriminalization of all drug possession. Some have pointed to the success of decriminalization efforts in places like Portugal. 

"Volunteers and first responders are working around the clock to keep people alive, but lives are on the line, and more action is urgently needed,” Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement last month. “We will keep pushing for bold solutions, and that includes breaking down the stigma that leads people to use drugs alone at home, addressing access to a clean supply through drug testing equipment, and dramatically improving a range of treatment options like opioid substitution therapy.”

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