One day after British Columbia declared that its opioid overdose epidemic killed more people in the month of November than in any other month over the past 30 years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested he could be open to legalizing heroin—though not anytime soon.
During a chat with the Vancouver Sun's editorial board Tuesday afternoon, the newspaper's ed-in-chief Harold Munro said that under heroin prohibition, black market dealers have explicit control over the supply. Citing Trudeau's stance on weed, Munro then asked if he would consider a similar policy for all illicit drugs.
"As you've all heard me say, I'm a big fan of evidence-based policy," Trudeau responded, adding that's why he's working to change legislation to make it easier to bring in safe injection sites and other harm reduction measures.
Just a few minutes earlier, Trudeau had made a similar observation about black market weed. He said the reason he was bringing in legalization (and not decriminalizing in the interim) was because safety is his top priority, and he doesn't want to give money to gangs and dealers.
BC's most recent wave of deaths is suspected to be linked to the super-potent opioid carfentanil, which authorities are only beginning to test for. In some cases, even the antidote naloxone fails to bring people back from overdose.
"I know that there have been pilot projects in Vancouver leading the way on prescription heroin," Trudeau said, referencing SALOME trials for deeply-entrenched users, adding he'll be interested to see deeper results. "I'm not ideologically or philosophically opposed, but I do know more needs to be done on public awareness and how best to help people."
Trudeau said the crisis intersects with many other issues like poverty, mental health, and housing, and that any good strategy on opioids would have to work on many levels.
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