Justin Trudeau's political party wants to decriminalize ALL THE DRUGS

In Canada, we're just months away from seeing the nationwide decriminalization of marijuana. There's still a ton of legislative junk to work out: the provinces and our Federal government, as well as a whack of NGOs still bickering over important points like how the cops should identify or handle impaired driving, how to use the tax money legalized cannabis will generate, and where – just as with cigarettes – it'll be cool to smoke the stuff. I know it'll all get squared away and, despite the fact that I've no taste for the stuff myself, I think that legalizing the drug will likely leave the country better off than it was when it was illegal.

According to The Guardian, The Liberal Party of Canada, of which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau belongs to, is looking to table legislation that could decriminalize other illegal drugs as well. The Liberals will be discussing whether or not they'll adopt decriminalization as a party policy at a meeting on the country's east coast this week.

The decriminalization of hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine can go a long way towards harm reduction among addicts, decrease the spread of infectious disease and take a serious chunk of profits out of the black market. As The Guardian points out, "… Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdose deaths, HIV infection rates and drug-related crimes, while the number of drug users seeking treatment has increased."

In Canada, we've been practicing harm reduction around narcotics use for years. In Vancouver, where I lived for close to a decade, injection drug use is rampant on the lower east side of the city. If you want to see what desperation, illness and need look like, all you need do is take a walk through that part of the city's downtown core. To attempt to provide a safe environment for addicts and other marginalized individuals, the city and a number of private interests offer low-barrier housing in the area. The hope is that by getting drug users off the streets and into a safe environment where they can shelter and, if they choose to do so, use narcotics, lives can be saved.

Being in a safe place that users can call their own can also save lives: If the time comes where someone decides that they want to kick their habit, the housing's management staff are there to suggest next steps and assist their tenants in getting the help that they need. And that's not the end of it: Vancouver's also the home of a groundbreaking safe injection site. At Insite, drug users are provided with clean syringes, alcohol swabs, and all of the other gear they need to use their drug of choice in the safest manner possible. They can shoot up and stay at the facility as long as they like. Nurses stand by at Insite to offer advice on healthcare, safe injection strategies, getting into rehab and if need be, to intercede in the event of an overdose. It's a facility that has been saving lives and helping to stop the spread of infectious disease for years.

I can't even begin to imagine how much good – or what challenges could arise, for that matter – from adopting a national standard for narcotics decriminalization. Should the Liberals adopt the policy that the drugs should be decriminalized, two of Canada's three major political parties will be of the same mind on the concept.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of Alex Guibord