The next issue I wish to discuss is one that likely has many people on both sides, as well as many firmly on the fence. The issue is should Canada decriminalize drug use and if so, to what extent.
I believe everyone has heard one story or another on how drugs have negatively affected someone in their lives or perhaps it has impacted them personally. Many humans start using drugs purely because they were introduced to them by a close friend or weird Uncle Joe and were looking to “experiment”, try something new or were just looking to break bad from their usual routines. Unfortunately, this can lead to heavy drug usage and addiction which may then lead to financial instability, destruction of personal relationships and possibly even death or a prison sentence. While most recreational drugs are, of course, not beneficial to the optimal functioning of the human body, many have been shown to have positive effects when used correctly by individuals who are well-educated on its effects and who are of a psychologically stable mind.
Most addicts start because of a preexisting mental health issue that they may or may not fully realize themselves, or because of social or cultural instability, broken family relationships, finances, etc. Drugs are used as a way to escape this reality; everyone has their own way of coping and while many may not personally agree with going this particular route, the individual made a conscience decision to start using drugs and instead of pointing out how disgusting and irresponsible they are, maybe helping them is a better option.
Canada is one of the slightly more lenient nations when it comes to drugs but not to the extent as others such as Portugal, Uruguay, Australia, Mexico and the Netherlands. Portugal is one such nation that has decriminalized all drugs with astounding results such as a decrease in deaths via overdose and a decrease in drug use altogether. While many in the United States, where possession of any drug, including marijuana, could land you a prison sentence more severe than someone convicted of rape (which for the record is disgusting), may find this ludicrous, we still cannot ignore the facts. Portugal views the drug problem as a health concern and not a criminal one, where those caught with a large quantity of any particular drug were referred to a mental health specialist rather than to a prison cell. This is a much better way to deal with the drug problem then simply throwing them in prison and letting the taxpayers look after their food, healthcare and so forth with no particularly good reason.
Canada should follow in the footsteps of Portugal, decriminalizing all drugs while making a better effort towards educating all Canadians on what drugs are, what they do, and how drugs impact the economy and individual’s physical and mental health. The reason for most problems in the world historically is a lack of awareness, understanding and logical thinking. I propose that the government should treat drugs in much the same way it treats food. Allow individuals to obtain licenses to open up specialized shops for the sale of specific drugs in specific quantities and at a much lower price than drug dealers on the street are willing to sell them for. Of course, there would be a minimum age and consumers would need to produce ID. This would create jobs not only in this area but in safe injection sites where drug users can go, without any judgement, to participate under supervision in their own recreational drug use. The workers at these sites could offer assistance in other forms such as referring them to mental health specialists, psychologists, and others to slowly wean them off the drugs and allow them to get to the root of the problem. There is also the issue of other ingredients laced within the drug that could be fatal such as the recent issue with fentanyl; drug users would not have to worry about the cleanliness of their drugs if purchased by government-controlled agencies and many deaths could be avoided, at the very least.
The government would be able to spend money on healthcare, education and public infrastructure rather than spending millions waging an unwinnable war on illegal drugs being shipped in from other countries or grown right here at home or diverting RCMP presence away from those who are actually in mortal danger, confronted by the real criminals. Of course, there are many other issues to consider such as enforcing an allowable quantity limit (possession), age allowed to possess drugs, proper handling, distribution and sale (and if these should then be taxed by the government), non-public usage of the drugs, ie. drug usage should be strictly private and not in public, and many others.
Perhaps the war on drugs should not be dealt with in this manner, there may be another more intelligent way of tackling it. Clearly, the way many nations around the world, including the United States, is handling the drug problem is not working and there could be any number of reasons for that. At least one thing is for sure and that is humans who want to use drugs always find a way and many will go to great lengths to satisfy their addiction, without any regard of the consequences. Innocent people pile up as collateral damage when there is no need for them to be and rather than punishing users, we can instead assist and educate for a more intelligent Canadian population.