Anyone who has ever seen someone struggle with addiction will know that drug-addicted people need help. Yet, so often that “help” comes in the form of hard-time spent inside a prison or jail, especially in The States. Time and time again we see programs within the criminal justice system try to help inmates, but fail. Without proper help on the other side, from those in the community, substance use disorders will remain. But what could help this population of people struggling?
Since the pandemic, substance abuse has been on the rise throughout many countries and it has thrown light upon the subject anew. Vancouver’s city council has asked the federal government for an exemption from existing laws and wants to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use. This comes as numbers show over 1,000 people have overdosed since the beginning of the COVID crisis in Vancouver.
Vancouver will not be alone in their fight to reframe substance abuse into a mental health problem versus a criminal justice problem. Countries like Portugal, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs already — amazingly, none of these countries have shown an uptick in drug use. In fact, Portugal saw deaths fall and enrollments in drug recovery programs rise!
And even more surprising is that Vancouver will have a model very close by to watch — the state of Oregon has also voted to decriminalize illicit drugs. Oregon will be chasing after those in Europe to shift to treatment rather than punishment. Recovery centers will be fully funded by the marijuana industry, which pays a heft amount in taxes. Oregon has always been a leader when it comes to forward-thinking, they were the first state to decriminalize possession of marijuana.
Unfortunately for the city of Vancouver, PM Trudeau has said he does not support this as a means to help with the drug overdose crisis. And his federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, had taken a similar position. Without the help and support of the federal government, how can Vancouver hope to push this bold measure through? Hopefully the powers that be will see reason and see what everyone else already knows: sick people don’t belong in jail.
What do you think about this move by Vancouver? Do you support the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs? Let us know in the comments below! And, as always, from all of us at Trill!: wear your mask, wash your hands, and chose kindness.