Ontario Health Minister Refuses to Allow Toronto to Even Suggest It Should Decriminalize Drugs

The Ontario government is giving the Toronto Public Health’s request to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use in the city a hard pass. 

In a public letter addressed to Toronto’s medical officer of health, Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner labeled the request as “misguided” and warned against pursuing the application further.

The cabinet ministers argued that decriminalization would only contribute to crime and public drug use while failing to support individuals struggling with addiction. They cited BC’s recent decision to backtrack on its own decriminalization experiment as evidence that the approach does not work. 

The letter also threatened to “explore all options available” if Toronto Public Health fails to rescind its application.

Toronto Public Health reported 733 suspected drug-related deaths in the city in 2023, with 523 deaths confirmed or likely caused by opioid toxicity. Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said that the drug overdose epidemic requires a comprehensive range of interventions, including policy changes, harm reduction, and accessible treatment options.

“This is an entire spectrum of interventions that is going to be required, as is the case with any other health condition,” de Villa said in an interview with CBC News Toronto on Thursday. “I know of no health condition that’s solved by only one simple intervention.”  

The formal status of Toronto’s application has been unclear, with federal officials stating that the city doesn’t have an “active” application, while the city maintains that discussions are ongoing. Drug decriminalization has become a contentious political issue, with federal Conservatives calling on the government to deny Toronto’s request.

The Ontario government has been reviewing all treatment and consumption sites in the province and plans to implement enhanced accountability measures. The province also tasked Unity Health Toronto with a comprehensive review of a consumption site in Toronto’s east end following a tragic shooting incident nearby.

Information for this story was found via CBC News, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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