Polite Canada Logo

The Consequences of Canada’s Lax Drug Policies

Canada is often praised for its “progressive” policies, yet when it comes to the regulation of drugs, the nation’s approach is the subject of growing concern. While the intentions behind some of these policies are touted to be rooted in harm reduction and personal freedom, the reality is that they have led to numerous public health and safety issues. In this article, Polite Canada examines the flaws in Canada’s drug policies while discussing stricter regulations that must be enacted to protect the well-being of all Canadians.

One of the most pressing issues is the surge in drug abuse and overdose deaths. The opioid crisis continues to devastate communities across the country, with thousands of Canadians losing their lives to overdoses each year. The introduction of supervised injection sites and the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs in some regions were intended to reduce harm, but these measures have only increased the availability of addicting illicit drugs.

The decriminalization of hard drugs in some Canadian provinces, such as British Columbia, was aimed at reducing the stigma around drug use and encouraging individuals to seek help. However, the evidence regarding its impact on overdose rates tells a very different story. In BC, the number of overdose deaths has remained alarmingly high even after decriminalization. Data from the BC Coroners Service shows that in 2021, the province recorded over 2,200 illicit drug toxicity deaths, an increase from the years preceding decriminalization. This number only increased in more recent years, with more than 2,500 lives lost to toxic drugs in 2023 in BC alone.

Looking at Canada as a whole, between 2013 and 2023, Canada saw a dramatic rise in hospitalization related to drug use. According to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the number of hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning alone has increased by over 27% during this period. This spike reflects the broader trend of escalating drug use and the associated health crises across the country. The increase in hospital visits highlights the urgent need for more effective drug policies that prioritize the removal of these illicit substances from our country as opposed to continued legalization.  

Promoting hard drugs as legal, “safer” substances normalizes drug use and sends a very mixed message to the public. While harm reduction services are essential, the legal approach lacks important aspects like prevention, treatment, and strict law enforcement against the trafficking of dangerous substances. Without a comprehensive approach, the cycle of addiction and overdose will continue to get worse.

The issue is not with decriminalization alone – it’s the approach to doing it. With selective provinces doing it, people congregate in these areas and overwhelm the system. Recovery centers cannot be built fast enough to deal with the influx, and the resources to build them also are not there. If our country is decriminalizing drug use, there must be necessary wraparound support structures after it. Without support, people go to detox, then to recovery, and then what? The important and missing piece of the puzzle is getting people gainfully employed, housed, and self-sufficient.

While Canada’s response to the opioid crisis must respect personal freedoms, it is crucial to balance those freedoms with public health. There needs to be a significant investment in evidence-based strategies proven to reduce substance abuse. This includes funding for addiction treatment services rather than supporting hard drug stores, and enforcing stricter measures against drug trafficking instead of increasingly lenient policies. Public education campaigns should prioritize educating the public about the dangers of substance abuse – it’s time to think twice before spending tax dollars on promoting local “safe” injection sites. 

The whole decriminalization process leans towards an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy. Instead of intensifying efforts to combat the illegal drug trade, provinces like British Columbia have began selling certain drugs legally. Instead of focusing on stopping the criminals who sell drugs illegally, our country is joining the market themselves. What’s next, publicly funded banners on the highway that advertise fentanyl for sale at your local pharmacy?