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Trudeau says Canada not looking to decriminalize harder drugs, experts call that 'irresponsible'

Trudeau says Canada not looking to decriminalize harder drugs, experts call that 'irresponsible'
From Global News - August 2, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government would not consider legalizing harder drugs, like heroin, to combat the overdose epidemic that has killed thousands of Canadians.

Theres a lot of things weve done. But we are not looking at decriminalization or legalization of any other drugs other than what we are doing with marijuana, Trudeau told Global BCs The Morning Show on Tuesday. We are going to focus on getting the control and regulation of marijuana regime right. And that is quite a handful right now and we are not looking at any other steps.

Trudeau defended his governments efforts in the battle against the growing opioid crisis, including making it easier to open safe injection sites, expanded access to naloxone, and allowing the importation of prescription heroin to treat severe addiction. The RCMP and Chinas Ministry of Public Security have also agreed to share intelligence aimed at curbing the flow of fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids into Canada.

Ive been working with and meeting with frontline responders and community workers in [Vancouvers] Downtown Eastside and indeed across the country, Trudeau said.

We are going to continue to work very hard to put an end to this terrible crisis.

READ MORE:Fentanyl contributed to hundreds of deaths in Canada so far this year

But one expert who has studied and witnessed the deadly scourge of illicit fentanylcalled Trudeaus comments short-sighted and said that without considering all policy tools in the fight against opioids more people will continue to die in communities across the country.

Its a crisis that is largely related to a toxic illegal drug supply. So taking options off the table to remove the poisons that are killing thousands and thousands of Canadians every year is frankly irresponsible, said Dan Werb, director of the Toronto-based International Centre for Science in Drug Policy.

We are beyond the point of crisis.

Werb says that while there is no single solution to the epidemic, a regulated system would help improve access to lower dose opioids, make drugs more stable and prevent deaths, while also disrupting and disincentivizing the illegal and often deadly market for drugs like fentanyl.

We basically have a regulated system for heroin, he said. On a very, very strict basis, people are allowed access to pharmaceutical grade heroin to manage their substance use disorder or opioid use disorder.

Why wont they talk about expanding that set of policies? he said. Just to refuse to think about it smacks of politics.

Canadas Public Health Agency estimated that more than 2,450 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016, with many deaths associated with fentanyl. Statistics from provincial health agencies show the deadly trend has accelerated this year with fentanyl contributing to the deaths of four people on average every day in B.C. and Alberta.

WATCH:Historic fentanyl seizure in Edmonton complex, drug operation innovative

Fentanyl was linked to 368 overdose deaths in B.C. between January and April 2017, according to a report from the BC Coroners Servicean increase of 115 per cent over the same period in 2016. The province is also on track for more than 1,500 deaths in a single year.

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