Edmonton takes steps to decriminalize simple possession of illegal drugs – Edmonton

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At a committee meeting Monday morning, Edmonton city councilors voted to ask the administration to explore the issue of decriminalizing simple possession of illegal drugs and provide recommendations by beginning of 2023.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi introduced the motion and Councilors Tim Cartmell, Michael Janz, Karen Tang and Jo-Anne Wright all voted in favour. The motion will still have to go through a city council meeting.

“Having a comprehensive plan, including the decriminalization of simple possession, is a tool we want to explore,” Sohi told reporters after the committee meeting.

“This is a long-term strategy as it involves a full application process. This would require a lot of advocacy work that we would have to undertake with the local authorities here as well as with the federal government and to coordinate our efforts with the other municipalities. So it will take us some time to figure it out. »

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Calls for the decriminalization of drugs are increasing. Could it solve Canada’s opioid crisis?

As a crisis of overdoses and opioid-related deaths rages in Canada, advocates have long argued that decriminalization would help reduce the stigma associated with drug use and help save lives.

In Edmonton last year, a record 666 people died of drug poisoning, according to Sohi.

“People aren’t afraid to talk to me about their cannabis use, imagine if people weren’t afraid to talk to me, as a doctor, about their drug use and wanted to have an open and honest conversation?” Dr. Ginetta Salvalaggio, of the Edmonton Area Medical Staff Association Opioid Poisoning Committee, told city councilors.

“It would be a game-changer,” she said.

Darren McGeown, owner of Arcadia Brewing Co., has come out in favor of decriminalizing possession of illegal drugs in Edmonton.


Darren McGeown, owner of Arcadia Brewing Co., has come out in favor of decriminalizing possession of illegal drugs in Edmonton. He said as a business owner he needed to voice his support for harm reduction strategies to help tackle the drug crisis.

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“I think as a business owner I have a duty to build a stronger community. A strong community outside builds a strong community inside Arcadia,” McGeown told Global News.

“These drug poisonings are happening all over the city. It’s not just a situation in downtown Edmonton. I think the more companies are involved, the stronger the voice we have.

Edmonton is the latest Canadian jurisdiction to address the issue.

READ MORE: Jurisdictions push to decriminalize small amounts of drugs as overdose deaths soar

Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, jurisdictions can apply to the federal government for exemptions to allow people to have small amounts of substances such as cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.

Vancouver officially requested it in May 2021.

British Columbia was the first province to make its own request, in November 2021. Toronto followed in January.

With files from The Canadian Press.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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