For your consideration - Thom Barker

For your consideration - Thom Barker

Decriminalization does not deserve our applause

What is needed for the opioid crisis is drastic measures not half-assed ones

Well, it’s a start, I guess.

But a start is not what is needed.

Last week, B.C. finally got approval from Health Canada for an exemption that will allow the province to temporarily (for three years) decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use.

Let’s completely ignore, for a moment, that B.C. never should have been waiting for the feds to act in the first place.

It has been six years since the province declared a public health emergency in response to the opioid crisis. Six long years during which drug overdose deaths have continued to climb.

Nearly 10,000 people have died since April 2016 when the public health emergency was declared, 548 of those in the first three months of this year.

An emergency requires drastic measures.

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This latest half-assed approach is not by any stretch of the imagination a drastic measure.

The 2.5 grams Health Canada approved isn’t even what B.C. was looking for (4.5 grams).

On top of that, the exemption doesn’t even take effect for another seven months.

Perhaps a definition is in order since our policy- and law-makers seem to have missed it.

Emergency noun a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

Not to be pedantic, but the key word here is ‘immediate.’

It took the province five years and seven months to formally ask for the exemption after ostensibly recognizing the emergency.

It took another seven months for Health Canada to approve it. And now, we get to wait another seven months until it is implemented.

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But maybe we should count the time in deaths instead of months. By my calculation, that’s approximately 1,300 more dead people.

Not to be pedantic, but the key word here is ‘people.’

Meanwhile, the NDP brought a private member’s bill to the House of Commons to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize small quantities of illicit drugs for personal use country-wide. B.C. may be in the worst shape, but the other provinces have similar crises.

It was voted down, of course.

Bravo to the NDP for pushing it, but even if it had been approved, it is a half-assed approach.

Nothing short of full legalization, providing a safe drug supply and implementing the health supports required to manage mental health and addictions is going to cut it.

Any argument to the contrary is nonsense. Nobody wants to be a drug addict. People get there for complex reasons. And once a person is there, getting out can be an almost insurmountable objective.

Solving a major problem like this requires vision, guts and political will.

Unfortunately, those things remain in very short supply among the political class.

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