decriminalization toronto

There's a new push to get drugs decriminalized for personal use in Toronto

While Toronto has taken a number of steps toward decriminalizing street drugs in amounts small enough to be considered for personal use, the change has yet to become a reality, as it already is in cities such as Vancouver and eventually across all of B.C. come January.

With municipal elections coming up later this month, there is now a renewed push behind the idea, with health experts looking for assurance that the next leader of the city will champion the ongoing motion to change current laws.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) today issued an official call asking all Toronto mayoral candidates to express their support of decriminalization for personal possession, a move that the organization says will save lives amid the opioid epidemic.

The group's new #DecriminalizeNow campaign urges the next incumbent — not just in Toronto but in cities and towns across the province — to continue the formal petition for an exemption to Ottawa's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The RNAO is sending information to mayoral candidates in dozens of Ontario municipalities to let them know the facts about overdose deaths and how decriminalization can help.

"Substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal problem. Every life lost due to an accidental overdose could've been prevented if appropriate supports and measures were readily available and easily accessible to individuals when they need it," the group writes in its public appeal.

"Nurses have been sounding the alarm on this preventable health crisis and offering evidence-based substance use policy since before the pandemic, yet we have continued to see the number of deaths, hospitalizations and emergency visits soar due to limited or no direct services and supports and an increasingly toxic drug supply."

The Toronto Board of Health unanimously decided to submit its application for an exception the act, governed by Health Canada, earlier this year. While there has been no major updates yet, Toronto Public Health remains in talks with the federal body.

The city has also had a comprehensive drug strategy for some time, one part of which is an alternative model to criminalization and policing.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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