Edmonton’s City Council could take the first steps to decriminalizing drug use and personal possession, in what could be a historic move towards finally curbing the fatal toll of Alberta’s worsening drug poisoning epidemic. But we need your help!
Councillor Michael Janz has tabled the following motion:
That Administration provide report to Committee on what would be required to pursue a section 56(1) exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and include information as to how the City of Toronto has initiated this process.
It is urgent that Edmonton move forward with this motion. Our elected leaders at all levels of government have a responsibility to act urgently to address this deadly epidemic. But given the provincial government’s repeated attempts to obstruct or dismantle harm reduction initiatives in Alberta, the role of Edmonton’s City Council has never been more crucial.
The number of people in Edmonton who have been lost to drug poisoning is growing exponentially, and 2021 was our deadliest year yet for fatal drug poisonings—an epidemic within a pandemic. What we are seeing is a policy failure and a failure of public health. We need a new approach to curbing this drug poisoning epidemic—one based in fact, not fear and rhetoric.
There is more than enough evidence to show that criminalizing addiction does not work. Here in Alberta, criminalization has only led to record deaths, and more lives cut short. Whereas in jurisdictions like Portugal, one of the most well-known success stories for decriminalization, their opioid crisis stabilized and they saw dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection and drug-related crime after they moved to decriminalize drug use in 2001.
This City Council motion is an important policy shift that will move away from a criminal approach, to treat this like the public health crisis that it is. Supporting this motion paves the way to obtaining an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, just as leaders in Toronto, British Columbia, and other jurisdictions are already exploring. And just as local groups such as the Alberta Medical Association, Moms Stop The Harm, and many others have been calling for.
Our current model of criminalization disproportionally impacts the most marginalized people in our communities: it’s no coincidence that Indigenous people are highly overrepresented within our justice system; the same being true for Black folks and others. While fear of persecution creates barriers to people accessing the health care and social supports that they need.
In the recent budget debates, the Edmonton Police Service claimed they need more money to do their job. Meanwhile, courts in Alberta are over capacity and overwhelmed. Decriminalization would reduce pressures on our judicial system and allow us to retarget resources to where people need them most—our health care system, addictions and mental health supports, and life-saving harm reduction initiatives. It is the smart thing to do, and it is the right thing to do.
Write to your City Council member & tell them to vote in favour of this motion on February 7!
Send a letter using this form.