decriminalization drugs

Toronto is now one big step closer to decriminalizing all drugs for personal use

The Toronto Board of Health has just officially made the landmark decision to move forward and seek the necessary approvals to decriminalize street drugs in quantities considered for personal use.

It is something that the city has been considering for some time, especially considering the last 18 months, when fatal overdoses rose a whopping 88 per cent compared to pre-COVID levels.

Non-fatal overdose calls have also spiked lately thanks to unregulated supply cut with highly potent opioids.

As part of a new public health approach to addiction rather than one that relies on policing, the city last week released a more detailed plan that builds on three main goals:

  • Increasing funding of health and social supports to impacted individuals;
  • Helping to establish some sort of national framework to decriminalize possession for personal use;
  • Working towards decriminalization within city limits specifically.

Monday's unanimous vote to move ahead with the plan means that the city must now apply for and secure a federal exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, governed by Health Canada.

Vancouver became the first city in the country to do so in June, and it's something that Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended we likewise do in a report she penned this summer.

Relevant stakeholders and working groups have collaborated on developing an alternative model to drug use in the city, which residents were able to have their say about via an online survey that closed in September.

"A Toronto model will be rooted in a public health approach, with an emphasis on ensuring that people who use drugs who are most at risk of criminalization because of their drug use are involved in the development of the model," the City states on a page about the new strategy.

The statement goes on to stress "that risk mitigation is incorporated throughout, and that best practices and evidence are used to inform the final request to Health Canada."

A preliminary request is expected to be submitted before the year's end.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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