Wednesday, November 30, 2011

B.C. physicians issue report on drug policy and law reform

B.C. physicians issue report on drug policy and law reform: It's hard to imagine an area more difficult for politicians talk about than drug policy reform.

Maybe raising taxes.

Today, B.C.'s Health Officers council gave the politicians some breathing room by issuing a report that calls for a provincial dialogue on reforming drug law in Canada and B.C. Not exactly a group of flaming radicals, the Health Officers Council is the professional association of public health physicians in B.C. They issue reports on the health impacts of, for example, driving while using your cell phone.

Ten years ago, few people could have imagined a functioning facility where nurses would supervise addicts injecting heroin, morphine and cocaine to make sure they didn't kill themselves in the process; that it would be supported by the health authority, municipal government and provincial government.

Similarly, ten years ago, few people could have imagined a study that looks at the outcome of prescribing heroin and hydromorphone to people who have failed at drug treatment. There has been one already. The second study is underway. Both in British Columbia. Both in Vancouver.

Today the majority of Canadians support Insite. British Columbians support drug policy reform that makes us safer and healthier, and have linked our endemic gang violence to the drug trade. But that hasn't been enough so far to open the door to even a discussion of reform and decriminalizing drug addicts. If anything, our drug law is going the other way, with tougher penalties and more jail time for addicts, despite the American experience.

There is now a little more space for those in positions of power to take up the Health Officers' call for a public discussion about what's working, and what's not working, in our current drug policy. Just a discussion. Hopefully, in ten years, we'll look back and shake our heads at the inability of our society to even discuss how we could improve our drug policy's effectiveness to increase safety, reduce harm, and reduce costs. Talk about reefer madness.

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