By: Satad Sharar
Do you know someone near and dear to you who is a regular drug user and depends on drugs to live their day-to-day life? If you are acquainted with someone like this, you hopefully know how hard their lives are. Some try to quit and others just give up and become addicts. The addicts face harsh consequences and are thought of negatively by the law. In my opinion, I believe drugs should be decriminalized in Canada to help addicts become better people, which would save lots of lives. In provinces like British Columbia, a lot of drug related offences are declining, but offences related to non-heroin opioids spiked 41.9 % from 2019 to 2020 (Crime Statistics in British Columbia). The biggest problem in Canada surrounding drugs is the opioid crisis. “It is worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic with many communities across Canada reporting record numbers of opioid-related deaths, emergency calls and hospitalizations” (Canada’s Opioid Overdose Crisis). The Canadian statistics are terrible and horrific. “Since 2016, approximately 20,000 people have died from drug overdoses” (Bogart). Covid-19 was one of the biggest contributing factors to these fatalities as it left people isolated with almost no access to healthcare (Bogart). In the spring of 2021, deaths in Ontario from opioid overdoses were 75 per cent higher than the year before (Bogart). Meanwhile, in other countries like Portugal, personal possession and use of all drugs was decriminalized about two decades ago (Bogart). The results were mostly positive and Portugal is not referred to as the drug capital or drug haven as some would expect from a drastic change like this. There was no influx in drug-related crimes and most people were still protected from drugs (Bogart).
Supervised-injection sites prove that addicts can be helped. These sites are for drug addicts who are provided with sterile needles and pre-obtained drugs which they can inject under the supervision of a nurse. These sites help keep addicts out of alleys using dirty needles and spreading viruses like HIV, which was as high as an annual infection rate of 19% in the drug crisis of Vancouver in the mid 1990’s (Kerr). Insite, an injection site in Vancouver, “supervised more than 3.6 million injections and responded to more than 6,000 overdoses. No one has ever died there” (Gordon). These numbers not only prove that the fatalities, due to infections and other sanitary issues, can be brought down close to none, but also that drug addicts can be thought of as regular people when they are given a second chance. They are not given any chances under today’s law as drug addicts look at a minimum prison sentence of one year, for schedule IV drugs, to twenty-five years, for schedule I drugs (Drug Charge Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Ontario).
Family is the most influential factor when it comes to the rehabilitation of drug addicts. The classic saying, friends come and go, but family is always there for you, is most true in drug-related cases. A lot of parents want to help their children when they have a drug problem and a lot of the time it helps them get back on their feet. They are provided with food, shelter, and a caring family. Prison sentences separate people from their families and surround them with people who are also at the worst point in their lives. The setting of prison itself takes away the drive a person has regarding their drug issues. It is highly unlikely for a person to find a positive influence because it is not very likely to find a respectable, law-abiding citizen in a prison. No statistics can prove that prisons have better rehabilitation outcomes than the influence of family.
I have never taken drugs, nor do I know anyone who is addicted to drugs, but I believe people should be given second chances because the gift of life is very valuable despite the choices a person makes. Decriminalizing drugs gives lots of people another chance that may result in failure, but one thing that can be ensured is that the blame will not be placed on the government. It provides drug addicts with another chance at proper rehabilitation and creating stronger bonds with their family which is why I believe that drugs should be decriminalized in Canada.
Canada’s opioid overdose crisis - Canada.ca. (n.d.). Canada. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/drug-prevention.html
Crime statistics in BC - british columbia. Crime Statistics in British Columbia, 2020. (2021, September). Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/criminal-justice/police/publications/statistics/crime-statistics-in-bc.pdf
Gordon, E. (2018, September 7). What’s The Evidence That Supervised Drug Injection Sites Save Lives? Npr. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/09/07/645609248/whats-the-evidence-that-supervised-drug-injection-sites-save-lives#:%7E:text=The%20Canadian%20model,and%20researched%20for%2015%20years.
Kerr, T. (2017, May 18). Supervised injection facilities in Canada: past, present, and future - Harm Reduction Journal. BioMed Central. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-017-0154-1
Mansour, F. (2020, October 23). Drug Charge Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Ontario. Friedman Mansour LLP. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.friedmanlaw.ca/drug-charge-mandatory-minimum-sentencing-in-ontario/
To fight the opioid crisis, we must decriminalize drugs. (2021, November 11). iPolitics. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.ipolitics.ca/news/to-fight-the-opioid-crisis-we-must-decriminalize-drugs