Photo: Marijuana is weighed at The Dispensary, a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver, on Feb. 5, 2015.
(Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
Jenna Valleriani is director, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Donald MacPherson is executive director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement about the failures of our existing drug policy is mostly on point. It’s just the last bit he gets wrong: “I think what everyone believes and agrees with, and to be frank myself, is that the current approach is not working, but it is not clear what we should do.”
He’s wrong, because we know what we should do: Supervised injection sites; prescription heroin; medical cannabis dispensaries; crack pipe distribution; drug testing kits; Naloxone for reversing opioid overdose.
We know these innovative health services reduce the harms of drugs and save lives, and we all agree “the current approach is not working.” And yet, access to these important innovations is unequal across Canada because of a lack of leadership at the federal level, and a failure to collaborate across all jurisdictions – local, provincial, national and international.
We don’t need to look far to start. Vancouver is known internationally for its innovation in drug policy reform – it houses North America’s first supervised injection site and prescription heroin program, and has recently seen a proliferation of medical cannabis dispensaries. The city’s drug policy is based on an evidence-based four pillar approach: harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement. This approach has been adopted around the world, but also here in Canada, officially forming the basis for the Toronto’s drug strategy.