Politics

Green Party would decriminalize all drug possession if elected

The Green Party would decriminalize all drug possession if elected in October, leader Elizabeth May said Saturday while campaigning in Winnipeg.

Opioid crisis needs a health-care approach, party leader Elizabeth May says

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said Saturday in Winnipeg, in making a policy announcement on the federal election campaign trail, that all drug possession must be decriminalized. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

The Green Party would decriminalize all drug possession if elected in October, leader Elizabeth May said Saturday on the campaign trail in Winnipeg.

May said it's a necessary step to curb the opioid crisis in Canada.

"We must stop treating drug addiction as a criminal issue. This is a national health emergency."

May delivered the announcement in Manitoba, which is dealing with a major drug problem.

As part of their effort to lower the rate of overdose deaths, the Greens are also committing to declaring a national health emergency, increasing mental health and addiction programs, and funding community organizations. The party said it would also ensure kits with Naloxone, a medication that blocks the effects of opioids, are widely available to treat overdoses.

The issue is personal for the Green leader. Her sister-in-law, entertainer Margot Kidder, died in 2018 after battling drug addiction.

Much of the Green Party's current support comes from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and Vancouver Island, areas hit hard by the opioid problem, which led to the deaths of nearly 4,000 Canadians in 2017.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says her party would decriminalize drug possession to address the opioid crisis. 0:58

May said her party would consider lifting the decriminalization in the future if the drug crisis subsides. 

Earlier this month, May told CBC News it's time the federal government declared the opioid crisis a national emergency and decriminalized illicit drugs to prevent deaths.

People on the front lines of the crisis have long said creating a supply of clean drugs and removing the criminal element would cut down on the number of overdose deaths.

On Saturday in Winnipeg, May said health care in Canada must "accommodate, prepare and save lives."

Weighing in on drug concerns

This year, a Statistics Canada report blamed stagnating life expectancy rates on deadly overdoses.

The Liberals have rejected calls to decriminalize all drugs, sticking instead with the legalization of marijuana — a 2015 campaign promise that was fulfilled last year.

Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have released their 2019 platforms, including on what they would do in the area of illicit drugs and how to reduce death rates.

The NDP's platform says the party would "commit to working with all levels of government, experts and Canadians to end the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction."

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