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LETTER - B.C.’s drug approach lacks the most important part of Portugal’s method

Dear editor,
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Dear editor,

Mr. Reynolds, in his Feb. 22 letter (Previous letter regarding decriminalization of small amounts of fentanyl misses the point) articulately regurgitated the official talking points on the opioid crisis, but in true Orwellian “NewSpeak” uses the term “safe supply” which is a political euphemism for “government-controlled and supplied hard drugs;” the “safe” being relative.

As is typical in the rhetoric around this subject, he mentions “other countries,” to which I will infer his reference to the much-lauded Portugese model. This model, for those not steeped in the nuances of the subject, substitutes a court appearance with a date at a “Dissuasion Commission” which mandates the best course of treatment (voluntary or otherwise) for the offender by a panel comprising both legal and medical professionals. Portugal did not fully “decriminalize” drugs as B.C. has recently done, they recategorized possession as an administrative offence to facilitate a different, and more effective, quasi-judicial process favouring healthcare over incarceration; this has been overwhelmingly successful. This, however, is not the path our province is going down.

Removing the crucial step of the initial charges/fines, which act as a tool to move the individual into the system and on to rehabilitation, eliminates the very thing that has made the Portuguese model so successful; being able to identify and compel those needing help to get it.

B.C. has not enforced laws surrounding simple possession of hard drugs for nearly a decade; the pronouncement of “decriminalization” is simply hollow political theatre. Parties at all levels need to find a middle ground between the “carrot” strategy of the far left and the “stick” strategy of the far right; one does not work without the other.

Portugal offers help to those who want it, and forces those that don’t to get it anyways; something clearly missing in our current approach.

Decriminalization seeks to destigmatize hard drug use, but in doing so normalizes its place in our society; is that what we really want? There must be a middle path. As evidenced by Portugal it is possible to be compassionate but remain grounded in societal and individual responsibility, things our current system seems to be sorely lacking.

Brennan Day

Comox Valley