Trudeau government rejects Liberal MPs’ call for decriminalization of all drugs

Legal drug model in Portugal wouldn’t work in Canada, federal health minister says

The Trudeau government is rejecting a call from its own backbenchers to decriminalize all illicit drug use in Canada — just days before Liberals are set to debate the idea at a national convention in Halifax.

A so-called priority resolution put forward by the national Liberal caucus for debate at the convention calls on the government to treat illegal drug use as a public health issue, not a criminal issue.

It urges the government to adopt the model instituted in 2001 in Portugal, where treatment and harm reduction services were expanded and criminal penalties eliminated for simple possession and consumption of illicit drugs.

READ MORE: B.C. health officer makes last call for decriminalization of illicit drugs

READ MORE: Federal funding to combat guns, gangs and opioid crisis

Anyone found in possession of an illegal drug in Portugal is ordered to appear before something called a dissuasion commission, which can refer the person for treatment or impose administrative sanctions, such as fines.

But Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says what works for a small country like Portugal wouldn’t work in large country like Canada, where 10 different provinces have sole responsibility for delivering health care.

Moreover, she notes that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly drawn the line at legalizing recreational marijuana and doesn’t intend to go further down that road with other, harder drugs.

The Canadian Press

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