decriminalized drugs toronto

Toronto's top doctor doubles down on plan to decriminalize all drugs for personal use

Toronto's Medical Officer of Health is speaking out against criticism of the City's plan to decriminalize all drugs for personal use.

Dr. Eileen de Villa issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon in response to a proposed change in B.C.'s federal exemption from drug possession laws to allow arrests for public drug use, and pushback against Toronto's plan to decriminalize drug possession within its borders.

In the statement, de Villa explains that "there has been criticism of Toronto's decriminalization efforts, suggesting we focus on treatment rather than decriminalization."

However, the City's top doctor maintains that "decriminalization is fundamentally recognizing that addiction is a health issue — and therefore requires health-based interventions. Decriminalization is not legalization."

"Toronto, like many other areas, grapples with the intertwined challenges of untreated addiction, mental illnesses and homelessness — a triple crisis demanding solutions from the whole of society and all levels of government," said de Villa, stressing again how "drug addiction is a health issue, not a criminal issue."

"Our city urgently needs more publicly funded treatment options and accessible mental health supports, as well as affordable housing, all of which are severely lacking."

Dr. de Villa raised alarm bells justifying decriminalization, saying that Toronto has "never seen this toxic a drug supply, this level of homelessness and this level of mental health crises in our history and like other Toronto residents, I see this on our streets and in our communities every single day."

Acknowledging that "we know we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis," de Villa makes it clear that "lighting up a crack pipe on a playground or injecting drugs on the subway is not acceptable and should not be allowed."

She maintains that while "arresting individuals who are carrying drugs for their own personal use isn't effective," those selling drugs will still be charged if caught.

Dr. de Villa explains that the City's application for an exemption to the federal law that criminalizes the possession of drugs "was developed in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, including individuals with lived experience who use drugs, organizations who serve them and the Toronto Police Service."

"The model is evidence-informed and aims to reduce harms associated with drug use, promote and provide pathways to treatment and does not sacrifice public safety. This is only ONE tool that is necessary to address the crises we are currently facing."

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