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Vancouver Legalizes Hard Drugs


Lucky
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Earlier this year, the city of Vancouver made a final submission seeking federal exemption to decriminalize simple drug possession. The submission proposed initial possession thresholds of as much as two grams of opioids including heroin and fentanyl, three grams of cocaine, one gram of crack cocaine and 1.5 grams of amphetamines – the drugs most commonly involved in fatal overdoses.

The reasoning behind these thresholds is that these amounts are, on average, an amount that can satiate a user for three or more days, which would prevent users from needing to acquire drugs on a daily basis.

This means that, if enacted into law, possession of these amounts of drugs would no longer carry criminal charges. 

The federal government has given Vancouver an exemption from national laws for three years. All of this follows the thought that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one.

The cartels must be thrilled! Or are they?

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Vancouver is the most progressive city in Canada. And has some of the worst drug problems as well. I believe the drug overdose deaths, a lot relating to opioides, are also the highest in Canada.

So conditions were fertile for trying a different approach. I think the federal government, which legalized pot several years ago for the entire country, is going to evaluate the experiment in Vancouver to see whether it produces positive results.

The only thing creating some uncertainty is that the mandate of the current federal government expires in a little over 2 years I believe and if the conservative party comes to power, all bets could be off.

Edited by Luv2play
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Wow. That's quite something. Well, I suppose it'll save the government a good chunk of money while "getting rid of" a bunch of pesky drug addicts the hard way. I can't say I find this a very ethical way of dealing with the problem, though. This attitude reminds me of an extreme Libertarian boyfriend I had back in undergraduate school, decades ago. His opinion was "Let's legalize everything, and let them shoot up all they want. That way we save on all of the enforcement costs and get rid of non-productive members of society!". That was a win-win in his view... 🙄

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It's not a libertarian measure, it's based on harm minimisation and from the link below (which does not reference the new policy) it almost certainly won't be a free-for-all. It'll most likely save the city and the province a bunch of money, for example in police and court time. From all accounts decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of drugs in Portugal resulted in reduced drug addiction and use, and lower enforcement costs. As public policy it will remove fear of arrest for possession for drug users presenting to rehabilitation services and for those using the existing supervised injection facility. (In other jurisdictions the latter have effectively eliminated street injection in the surrounding areas, and significantly reduced deaths and overdoses.)

Canberra has just extended a public free drug testing service trial, which is able to advise users of what is in the drugs they have bought. There have been cases where highly toxic chemicals have been detected (some drugs, other times caustic substances and poisons) and cases where they were inert fillers. They can also tell users the level of purity of the drugs, and at times that it was a completely different drug. One of the important roles of the service is to have medical professionals who can provide clear and accurate information about the drugs, something that I suspect a dealer does not offer. On receiving the results of the test, and the counselling, close to half the clients chose to dispose of the rest of their stash. Some who found they had Drug B rather than the Drug A they thought they had kept it anyway. (Clearly this is a harm minimisation measure, mainly for casual users, and not aimed at addiction reduction.)

Vancouver has a fairly comprehensive drug strategy of which this can be seen to be a logical extension. https://vancouver.ca/people-programs/four-pillars-drug-strategy.aspx

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4 hours ago, mike carey said:

...It'll most likely save the city and the province a bunch of money, for example in police and court time...

I don't think that anyone could argue with that sentence. Some might say it's deaths for dollars, though. I'm all for amnesty for those who want to present themselves for treatment, and even offering treatment in lieu of prison sentences. Also, drug testing services are probably a good idea, and there should be no law enforcement allowed at or near those facilities. I'd be curious to see references to the Portuguese situation which you discussed. Savings on enforcement are self-evident and obvious immediate benefits. It would surprise me that legalizing possession would result in a reduction of use (other factors, such as increased availability of treatment would seem to have to be involved). If legalizing drugs in and of itself results in decreased use, I'm certainly open to changing my mind. 

Many states in the US have legalized recreational marijuana. Certainly this has been a financial boon with decreased expenditures and increased revenues. There have, in general, been more motor vehicle accidents in those places, though. One can weigh risks/benefits in these cases. At least no one dies from marijuana overdoses. 

Edited by Unicorn
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14 hours ago, Lucky said:

Earlier this year, the city of Vancouver made a final submission seeking federal exemption to decriminalize simple drug possession. The submission proposed initial possession thresholds of as much as two grams of opioids including heroin and fentanyl, three grams of cocaine, one gram of crack cocaine and 1.5 grams of amphetamines – the drugs most commonly involved in fatal overdoses.

The reasoning behind these thresholds is that these amounts are, on average, an amount that can satiate a user for three or more days, which would prevent users from needing to acquire drugs on a daily basis.

This means that, if enacted into law, possession of these amounts of drugs would no longer carry criminal charges. 

The federal government has given Vancouver an exemption from national laws for three years. All of this follows the thought that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one.

The cartels must be thrilled! Or are they?

Thank you - interesting topic. I do think we need to be clear that this is an effort to decriminalizing and not to legalize. They are not the same thing.  If you have a small amount for personal use, you will not be arrested. You can seek aid/assistance or counceling without fear. But it is not legal to have a large quantity at hand.

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12 hours ago, Unicorn said:

Let's legalize everything, and let them shoot up all they want. That way we save on all of the enforcement costs and get rid of non-productive members of society!". That was a win-win in his view...

I agree. That's a very Libertarian viewpoint.

One of the areas where I part philosophically with pure Libertarianism.

Drug addicts need treatment not jail cells.

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11 hours ago, mike carey said:

It's not a libertarian measure...

Well, legalization of drugs IS a libertarian position. I think there's a logical fallacy in the sequence:

(1) I agree with this policy

(2) I'm not a Libertarian

therefore:

This is not a libertarian measure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_Party_of_Canada

"Party policies include ending drug prohibition, ending government censorship, lowering taxes, protecting gun rights, and non-interventionism."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_Party_(United_States)#Political_positions

"The Libertarian Party supports the legalization of all victimless crimes,[161] including drugs,[162][163][164][165] pornography,[162] prostitution,[162][163][164][165] polygamy,[166] and gambling,[167] has always supported the removal of restrictions on homosexuality,[164] opposes any kind of censorship and supports freedom of speech,[168] and supports the right to keep and bear arms[163] while opposing Federal capital punishment."

While I agree with much of what the Libertarian Party advocates, I believe that in some areas, such as dugs, their positions are naive and show poor understanding of human behavior in the real world. Legalizing hard drugs seems to ignore realities of those struggling with substance abuse, and seems rather heartless. Substance abusers can be treated humanely, and should only be incarcerated as a last resort (if they refuse treatment), and then only for their own safety. 

I disagree with the libertarian premise that drug use is a victimless crime, since many do die of substance abuse.

Edited by Unicorn
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I don’t see this as an issue. Too many courts are over saturated with drug possession cases from habitual junkies. 

Spend more efforts ob finding and punishing the dealers and distributors. 

The users will wind up in the system anyways for the other crimes they’ll more than likely commit in order to feed their habit. Once they’re nabbed, then jail them and treat them. 

 

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17 hours ago, Luv2play said:

Vancouver is the most progressive city in Canada. And has some of the worst drug problems as well. I believe the drug overdose deaths, a lot relating to opioides, are also the highest in Canada.

So conditions were fertile for trying a different approach. I think the federal government, which legalized pot several years ago for the entire country, is going to evaluate the experiment in Vancouver to see whether it produces positive results.

The only thing creating some uncertainty is that the mandate of the current federal government expires in a little over 2 years I believe and if the conservative party comes to power, all bets could be off.

Even though a close friend died last week of a heroin overdose, Support the effort in Vancouver 

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7 hours ago, Unicorn said:

Well, legalization of drugs IS a libertarian position. I think there's a logical fallacy in the sequence:

(1) I agree with this policy

(2) I'm not a Libertarian

therefore:

This is not a libertarian measure.

That libertarians hold a certain view does not make adopting anything that furthers that view a libertarian measure. They don't 'own' any policy positions. A libertarian measure would have been if Vancouver had decided they just needed to decriminalise drugs. They did not. They decided on the basis of evidence they had that the previous approach of strictly enforcing drug law was counter-productive and that they needed to modify it, and chose to decriminalise certain levels of drug possession that could be deemed to be for personal use. No libertarian would see any need to offer any justification nor would they have limited the measures as these were.

The Vancouver measure was not libertarian in either its intention or its effect. And while there is a logical fallacy in what you wrote, no one was saying anything of the sort.

 

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2 hours ago, mike carey said:

That libertarians hold a certain view does not make adopting anything that furthers that view a libertarian measure. ...

 

Well, it is true that this proposal was not presented by a libertarian member of the legislature. In fact, there don't seem to be any members of that party in the BC Legislative Assembly. Had their been any, however, I don't think anyone would doubt that they would have all voted for it. To not charge anyone for possession of personal amounts of drugs effectively legalizes the drugs, to avoid using linguistic sophistry. This is certainly a core libertarian philosophy. In the US, no party except the Libertarian Party advocates legalization of hard drugs. I suspect that none of the nationwide parties in Canada does so either (I'm ready for a Canadian with references to correct me if my suspicion's incorrect). 

I will agree with you 100% that the emphasis should be on treatment, not incarceration. However, laws against illicit drug use are not simply a matter of one group of people imposing its morals on others. Drug abuse kills and maims. We've seen countless examples of that right here on this message center regarding celebrities (or escorts) who've succumbed to this illness. While medical treatment should be thought of as the mainstay to help those afflicted, there need to be legal consequences for those who simply refuse treatment. 

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57 minutes ago, Unicorn said:

Well, it is true that this proposal was not presented by a libertarian member of the legislature. In fact, there don't seem to be any members of that party in the BC Legislative Assembly. Had their been any, however, I don't think anyone would doubt that they would have all voted for it. To not charge anyone for possession of personal amounts of drugs effectively legalizes the drugs, to avoid using linguistic sophistry. This is certainly a core libertarian philosophy. In the US, no party except the Libertarian Party advocates legalization of hard drugs. I suspect that none of the nationwide parties in Canada does so either (I'm ready for a Canadian with references to correct me if my suspicion's incorrect). 

I will agree with you 100% that the emphasis should be on treatment, not incarceration. However, laws against illicit drug use are not simply a matter of one group of people imposing its morals on others. Drug abuse kills and maims. We've seen countless examples of that right here on this message center regarding celebrities (or escorts) who've succumbed to this illness. While medical treatment should be thought of as the mainstay to help those afflicted, there need to be legal consequences for those who simply refuse treatment. 

Having k now people who were addicted to heroin simply refusing treatment is  absolutely no solution

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What Trudeau did with marijuana is to legalize it across the entire country. In Canada criminal law is legislated by the federal government. This is  different from the US where there are federal crimes and state crimes. For instance abortion is now regulated by state laws. In Canada abortion laws  are federal and the provinces have no role in legislating on abortion.

What Vancouver has done is to seek a special exemption from Ottawa to allow them to conduct this experiment for a three year period to "decriminalize" mere possession of small amounts of hard drugs on individuals. 

If this is given time to produce results that are positive and measurable, I think we will see the feds move on new legislation with regard to hard drugs. 

Edited by Luv2play
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1 hour ago, Luv2play said:

...What Vancouver has done is to seek a special exemption from Ottawa to allow them to conduct this experiment for a three year period to "decriminalize" mere possession of small amounts of hard drugs on individuals. 

If this is given time to produce results that are positive and measurable, I think we will see the feds move on new legislation with regard to hard drugs. 

Well, three years is a short amount of time, but I hope they'll at least look at the immediate negative effects of hard drugs such as overdoses, petty crimes, car break-ins, and hospitalizations, and not just ask "Didn't we save a lot of money?". Some of the more tragic effects come years later, of course, cutting short users' lives. I remember meth users getting heart failure in their 50s, or sometimes even earlier. Look at all of the celebrities who die under the age of 65. Often it's the long-term effects of hard drug use. Loss of productivity, etc., is more difficult to measure. Why did Elvis and his daughter die so young? Probably due to drug use--and more than three years. 

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On 1/21/2023 at 11:42 AM, Quincy_7 said:

The city's really gone to shit in the past few years. It's like a Canadian San Francisco. 

I’m there often. It’s not nearly as bad as SF, Seattle or Portland. At least the junkies aren’t roaming the nice areas of downtown. And I’m a born master of critique!

Edited by Pensant
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2 hours ago, TokyoNewbie said:

I just skimmed that article (it is very long) but one important difference I noted is that Portugal still outlaws cannabis and more than half of the current criminal prosecutions deal with cannabis use. In Vancouver as in all Canada cannabis use for any reason is now legal. So the situation is not comparable between Portugal and Vancouver.

That being said the experience gained by Portugal may be of some interest to the experiment now going on in Vancouver.

With respect to those who say three years is too short a time to see results, I would challenge that. Drug related harm as measured by deaths is recorded on a monthly basis at least and yearly statistics are depended on in many areas of public policy. In three years we will know a lot about what if any impact the Vancouver experiment is having.  

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1 hour ago, Luv2play said:

I just skimmed that article (it is very long) but one important difference I noted is that Portugal still outlaws cannabis and more than half of the current criminal prosecutions deal with cannabis use. In Vancouver as in all Canada cannabis use for any reason is now legal. So the situation is not comparable between Portugal and Vancouver...

You can say that again. The article states: "...As in previous years, in 2019 the Commissions reported that 90% of all identified drug users - 83% of whom were cannabis users - were classified as non-dependents [27]. The reason behind this circumstance is that cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug [49], in Portugal and elsewhere, its use is socially widespread, and it occurs mostly on the street and in public spaces during leisure time [50]...". Unfortunately, despite its length, the article doesn't discuss any results regarding the harms and benefits of the law, which was apparently declared mostly invalid by Portugal's Supreme Court in 2007. Frustratingly, I have been unable to find such an analysis myself. What should be of interest to anyone should be how best to address dependent drug users, especially with regard to hard drugs.

2 hours ago, Luv2play said:

...With respect to those who say three years is too short a time to see results, I would challenge that...

I'm sorry, but this portion of your posting is simply factually false. While drug abuse does cut short a lot of lives, most addicts suffer with their disease for more than 3 years. I get it that you haven't had someone close to you die due to substance abuse, yet still we're constantly barraged on a weekly basis it seems with news of famous people whose years have been cut short due to substance abuse. Whitney Houston comes immediately to mind as a tragic example. Some even had assistance from unscrupulous physicians, such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. And the deaths only touch the surface. Deaths don't measure the health problems, suffering, or lost productivity associated with substance dependence. 

I find it disturbing that despite the Portuguese experiment, no one has even attempted to measure consequences other than purely financial ones. It's obvious that removing legal consequences for drug use saves money. Presumably, Houston, Presley, and Jackson all paid into Medicare and Social Security yet never collected a dime from these programs. Think of all of the money saved! What's lost is the tragic loss of life and talent. For enthusiasts of "decriminalization," it's seems to be all about the financial gains, while ignoring the human costs. 

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1 hour ago, Unicorn said:

You can say that again. The article states: "...As in previous years, in 2019 the Commissions reported that 90% of all identified drug users - 83% of whom were cannabis users - were classified as non-dependents [27]. The reason behind this circumstance is that cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug [49], in Portugal and elsewhere, its use is socially widespread, and it occurs mostly on the street and in public spaces during leisure time [50]...". Unfortunately, despite its length, the article doesn't discuss any results regarding the harms and benefits of the law, which was apparently declared mostly invalid by Portugal's Supreme Court in 2007. Frustratingly, I have been unable to find such an analysis myself. What should be of interest to anyone should be how best to address dependent drug users, especially with regard to hard drugs.

I'm sorry, but this portion of your posting is simply factually false. While drug abuse does cut short a lot of lives, most addicts suffer with their disease for more than 3 years. I get it that you haven't had someone close to you die due to substance abuse, yet still we're constantly barraged on a weekly basis it seems with news of famous people whose years have been cut short due to substance abuse. Whitney Houston comes immediately to mind as a tragic example. Some even had assistance from unscrupulous physicians, such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. And the deaths only touch the surface. Deaths don't measure the health problems, suffering, or lost productivity associated with substance dependence. 

I find it disturbing that despite the Portuguese experiment, no one has even attempted to measure consequences other than purely financial ones. It's obvious that removing legal consequences for drug use saves money. Presumably, Houston, Presley, and Jackson all paid into Medicare and Social Security yet never collected a dime from these programs. Think of all of the money saved! What's lost is the tragic loss of life and talent. For enthusiasts of "decriminalization," it's seems to be all about the financial gains, while ignoring the human costs. 

Why don't we wait and see the results in 3 years. Hopefully this forum will still be around. 

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2 hours ago, Unicorn said:

You can say that again. The article states: "...As in previous years, in 2019 the Commissions reported that 90% of all identified drug users - 83% of whom were cannabis users - were classified as non-dependents [27]. The reason behind this circumstance is that cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug [49], in Portugal and elsewhere, its use is socially widespread, and it occurs mostly on the street and in public spaces during leisure time [50]...". Unfortunately, despite its length, the article doesn't discuss any results regarding the harms and benefits of the law, which was apparently declared mostly invalid by Portugal's Supreme Court in 2007. Frustratingly, I have been unable to find such an analysis myself. What should be of interest to anyone should be how best to address dependent drug users, especially with regard to hard drugs.

I'm sorry, but this portion of your posting is simply factually false. While drug abuse does cut short a lot of lives, most addicts suffer with their disease for more than 3 years. I get it that you haven't had someone close to you die due to substance abuse, yet still we're constantly barraged on a weekly basis it seems with news of famous people whose years have been cut short due to substance abuse. Whitney Houston comes immediately to mind as a tragic example. Some even had assistance from unscrupulous physicians, such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. And the deaths only touch the surface. Deaths don't measure the health problems, suffering, or lost productivity associated with substance dependence. 

I find it disturbing that despite the Portuguese experiment, no one has even attempted to measure consequences other than purely financial ones. It's obvious that removing legal consequences for drug use saves money. Presumably, Houston, Presley, and Jackson all paid into Medicare and Social Security yet never collected a dime from these programs. Think of all of the money saved! What's lost is the tragic loss of life and talent. For enthusiasts of "decriminalization," it's seems to be all about the financial gains, while ignoring the human costs. 

How many of your friends smoke weed?

For me almost everyone I met in Vietnam and after  Vietnam (I was discharged from the Army in June 1969)

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