Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police call for decriminalization of street drugs

Cops: decriminalize drugs

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is calling for the decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs and the creation of a national task force to research drug-policy reform.

On Thursday, the association said it wants to see changes to the section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act related to simple possession and is recommending alternatives to criminal sanctions to promote a health-based diversionary approach.

It wants all police agencies in Canada to recognize substance abuse and addiction as a public-health issue to help reduce drug overdoses.

“Canada continues to grapple with the fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply that has devastated our communities and taken thousands of lives,” association president Chief Constable Adam Palmer said in a statement. “We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focused approach that requires partnerships between police, health care and all levels of government.”

The association is proposing increased access to health care, treatment and social services to divert people struggling with substance use or addiction away from the criminal justice system.

Diversion would apply to individuals in possession of small or predetermined amounts of illicit drugs for personal consumption, the association said, and would improve health and safety for individuals who use drugs, while also reducing property crime, repeat offences and the demand for drugs in communities.

The association said enforcement and the courts should be focused on targeting organized crime, drug trafficking and the illegal production and importation of drugs.

“While law enforcement continues to be required to stop those putting poisoned and illegal substances on our streets, the traditional role of frontline policing has fundamentally shifted to harm reduction when interacting with people experiencing addiction or mental health issues. Frequently, our officers are the point of first contact and the ones who will assist individuals in accessing appropriate services and pathways of care,” said Palmer.

The association created a special committee in March 2018 to study the decriminalization of illicit drugs and its impact on public safety.

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