One of the most difficult and emotionally-trying issues facing our world today has to do with the widespread use of addictive and harmful drugs, and we’ve tried just about everything under the sun in an attempt to curb their use and abuse.
In the 1980’s, we had the “war on drugs” here in the United States, which not only stigmatized abstinence as “square” or un-hip, but also sent police and federal law enforcement out to crack down on users. This galvanized and emboldened the suppliers and dealers, however, leading to a violent mess that we are still trying to clean up in places like Chicago.
The polar opposite of that nearly-militant approach is now set for a trial run in Canada, as our neighbors to the north look to decriminalize all manner of hard drugs for a period of three years.
Canada’s government said Tuesday it will allow British Columbia to try a three-year experiment in decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs, seeking to stem a record number of overdose deaths by easing fear of arrest by users in need of help.
The policy approved by federal officials doesn’t legalize the substances, but Canadians in the Pacific coast province who possess up to 2.5 grams of illicit drugs for personal use will not be arrested or charged.
The types of drugs affected are widely varied.
The three-year exemption taking effect Jan. 31 will apply to drug users 18 and over and include opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
For some, even this radical step wasn’t enough:
Dana Larsen, a drug policy reform activist, called the announcement “a step in the right direction,” but said he would prefer to see development of a safe drug supply.
“It’s not going to stop anybody dying of an overdose or drug poisoning,” Larsen said. “The drugs are still going to be contaminated.”
“I think we need stores where you can go in and find legal heroin, legal cocaine and legal ecstasy and things like that for adults,” he said. “The real solution to this problem is to treat it like alcohol and tobacco.”
The decision came just days after Canada announced some of their strictest crackdowns on the rights of gun owners, setting up quite the side-by-side comparison between these two schools of thought.