Justin Trudeau Says No to Decriminalization of Opioids

The statement comes in contrast to recommendations from BC health officials to decriminalize opioid drugs.

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Mar 3 2017, 3:53pm

Despite pressure from health experts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is rejecting calls for the decriminalization of drugs other than marijuana, citing concerns of public safety.

According to the Globe and Mail, Trudeau told reporters Thursday that, while the opioid crisis is a prime concern of his government, there is no plans to decriminalize or relax regulations on any other drug than marijuana.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who is on the front lines," Trudeau said Thursday, with the prime minister set to meet with health experts in Vancouver Friday morning to address Canada's opioid crisis.

"I always listen very carefully to what they have to say. But at the same time, I can absolutely confirm that we are moving forward on a framework to regulate and control marijuana to protect our kids and keep our communities safer from organized crime, and we are not planning on including any other illicit substances in the movement toward legalizing, controlling and regulating."

Due to the rapidly growing rate of opioid overdose deaths in Canada—with almost 1,000 deaths in BC alone last year—health experts have been putting increasing pressure on the Trudeau government to address the opioid crisis. Recommendations have included opening more supervised injection sites, increasing access to naloxone, and decriminalizing opioids, so that those with addictions can seek help without fear of law enforcement.

British Columbia Health Minister Terry Lake, said early last year that "the war on drugs has largely been a failure," and argued that the opioid crisis needed to be looked at through a "public health lens." Since that time, the federal government's report on how to address the opioid crisis has emerged, and with it, the adaption of some suggestions from experts and frontline harm reduction workers.

Trudeau told reporters his stance against the decriminalization is because it's not, in his view, a practical deterrent from helping solve the issue. Trudeau cited how the legalization will pull "billions of dollars" of revenue away from criminal dealers, while redistributing it to safe and legal vendors. Trudeau says simply decriminalizing opioids would not be enough.

"It's easier to buy a joint for a teenager than it is to buy a bottle of beer. That's not right," Trudeau said. "We know by controlling and regulating we are going to make it more difficult for young people to access marijuana."

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