Halt drug possession charges during pandemic to stem spike in overdose deaths, advocates say
May 14th, 2020
May 14th, 2020
Read the full story here.More than 50 human rights, drug and legal policy groups are pushing the federal government to halt criminal charges for simple drug possession as part of its response to COVID-19, arguing the pandemic has led to more dangerous drug use practices and a spike in overdose deaths.
In a letter to Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Justice Minister David Lametti, the organizations say COVID-19 has forced supervised consumption sites and safe needle programs to either close down or reduce their hours.
Additional street-level policing to enforce pandemic public health measures has also increased fears of arrest, causing many drug users to forego safety precautions or consume alone.
"Heightened law enforcement surveillance in the context of the pandemic further hampers their access to vital health services and ability to use drugs safely, while also increasing their risk of arrest and detention," the letter reads.
The groups that signed the letter — which include Amnesty International, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Criminal Lawyers' Association — say the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act gives the federal health minister the authority to issue an exemption for criminal charges "on the basis that it is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest."