Modeling its proposal after Portugal's decriminalization framework, Toronto is asking the federal government to grant a Health Canada exemption for all unregulated drugs, including for children.
"The data show that youth in Toronto between the ages of 12 and 17 use unregulated drugs and are vulnerable to the same harms associated with criminalization as adults," the report further states.
Should the "city-wide" exemption be granted, effectively decriminalizing all unregulated drugs in Toronto, it would not apply to child care facilities, airports, or schools.
"The exclusion of child care facilities and schools is intended to maintain alignment with provincial legislation intended to prevent alcohol, cannabis, and unregulated drug use in these settings," city officials said.
"Airports are excluded because they fall under federal laws."
(Related: The war on drugs has been a complete and total disaster, causing more harm than good, in many cases.)
As of January 31, it is no longer a crime anywhere in the entire province of British Columbia to be caught with illegal drugs, just so long as the amounts are 2.5 grams or less, which is considered to be for personal use.
BC's decriminalization plan does not apply to children, though. What Toronto is asking for constitutes an even more lenient decriminalization framework in that it also applies to children.
Another thing worth noting is that neither of these decriminalization plans applies to the trafficking, exportation, or production of illicit substances. Those caught with unregulated drugs for any other reason than personal use will still be prosecuted.
"Drugs in possession for personal use can vary considerably depending on the type of drugs being used, or an individual's tolerance to a substance," Toronto city officials said.
"For the anticipated benefits of decriminalization to be available to all Torontonians, the model should apply to all drugs in possession if they are for personal use."
"However, individuals will still be investigated for and charged with trafficking and / or possession for the purpose of trafficking, exporting, or producing a controlled substance where there are reasonable grounds for any such charge."
Toronto is also proposing the introduction of a pilot program to allow drinking alcohol in public parks.
"Flooding our streets with decriminalized and taxpayer subsidized drugs has led to a massive overdose crisis right across the country," said Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre in opposition to the decriminalization proposal.
The argument in favor of decriminalization is that those using such substances personally need help, not prison time. By treating illicit drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue, users have a better chance of overcoming the habit and getting somewhere in life without a criminal record.
Conversely, the argument against decriminalization is that it might encourage drug use and allow drug-addicted criminals who commit other crimes to slip through the cracks and cause even more problems for society.
From a financial perspective, enforcing drug criminalization is expensive. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent filling jails with drug users whose only crime, in many cases, was getting caught – and the only victim was themselves.
"We're talking about a matter of health and a matter of human rights, not one that really is meant to be addressed or is best addressed with a criminal justice approach," said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa about the "made-in-Toronto" decriminalization model that was developed following a months-long consultation process.
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