Ocala, FL – Canada is proposing legislation that will make possession of some drugs such as cocaine and heroin, legal again in the hopes of getting people off the streets and getting them the help they need.
In June, the federal government proposed a law that would decriminalize the simple possession of small amounts of drugs.
Under the current law, simply possessing drugs is treated as a criminal act in Canada, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Ahead of the federal bill’s introduction, community leaders from Toronto spoke out in support of such legislation. One of them is former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
Earlier this month, Ford told CNN that he was “mad as hell” and that legalizing drugs would help to prevent deadly drug overdoses and deaths.
Why is this law proposal so controversial?
Conrad Murray, the doctor who provided George Michael with the drugs that killed him, is serving a 4-year prison sentence for manslaughter.
And Desmond Cole, the homeless man who was shot on an Atlanta bus and died a few days later, was apparently high on crack when he was killed.
While the individuals responsible for their deaths will be held responsible, some argue that criminalizing small amounts of drugs can lead to harmful results.
Some drug use is simply an accepted part of human life.
In 2015, researchers from the University of Toronto released a study indicating that one in 10 people will use illicit drugs at some point in their lives.
CNN’s Roque Planas reports on a potential drug decriminalization policy in Toronto.
While they acknowledged that legalization of marijuana, the drug that caused most people to partake in illicit drug use, would create a host of financial and social problems, they suggest that at least decriminalization could curb the spread of HIV, infectious disease and even lower health costs.
Another expert, Barry Sookman, director of the Abecedarian Institute, a Vancouver, British Columbia, organization that was partially funded by the Vancouver police department to stop violence among Vancouver’s homeless population, argues that legalizing all drugs is not the answer.
If the city becomes overmedicated for the physical symptoms of addiction, it will be tantamount to “resisting liberty and property by coercion of the state,” says Sookman.
How will legalization of cocaine and heroin affect the street drugs you are already using?
Right now, police and drug policy experts are worried that legalizing the possession of legal drugs such as cocaine and heroin would make people more likely to obtain the drugs illegally, since they would not be prosecuted for their actions.
If this happens, they say, it would be the first time in Canadian history that small amounts of legal drugs were being used illegally.
There are fears that legalizing the possession of legal drugs could increase the number of overdose deaths from users who go without proper treatment.
An additional concern is that if used in a responsible manner, legal drugs could help with addiction issues.
An estimated 29,000 people died of opioid overdose in 2016 in the United States alone. In the United Kingdom, there were more than 14,000 fatal overdoses related to opioids in 2016.
Many believe that the true number of opioid deaths in the United States could be even higher.
An estimated 45,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016.
Nationally, almost 10,000 drug overdose deaths are attributed to opioids like cocaine and heroin.
Why is homelessness such a major problem in Toronto?
There are nearly 5,000 people who sleep on the streets of Toronto every night.
The City of Toronto’s 2014 Homelessness Survey found that 64% of the homeless people surveyed were living with a mental illness.
While a majority of the respondents that the city surveyed reported being stable on an ongoing basis, statistics suggest the challenges they face are much greater than what the numbers show.
“The likelihood that someone will be chronically homeless is higher than it is for someone who has no mental illness whatsoever,” says Cynthia Sommerville, a professor in the department of public health at Toronto’s Ryerson University.
“The major cause of homelessness is homelessness, and a lot of the people who are chronically homeless have significant mental health issues. They also experience stigma around being homeless,” Sommerville adds.
A group of local activists recently released a book they say is proof that a cultural shift is needed to end homelessness in Toronto.
The young authors of the “City of Crime” book “were tired of always having to ask their white friends in school when they were going to go pick up their lunch or gas to go