Toronto Public Health, alongside the Toronto Police Service, has reignited their quest to decriminalize personal drug use within the city’s borders – a daring move in the battle against the opioid crisis. Their mission? To kick criminalization to the curb and embrace a fresh strategy for tackling drug-related issues.
When asked if this “Toronto Model” could work elsewhere, Public Health Sudbury & Districts (PHSD) and Greater Sudbury Police gave a shrug and a nod, acknowledging the potential ups and downs of what’s now being called the “Toronto Magic Trick.”
Toronto’s adventure began in early 2022, and they’re now knocking on Health Canada’s door once more, urging them to turn the decriminalization dial up a notch. While Health Canada handed British Columbia a three-year hall pass for certain drugs, permitting possession of up to 2.5 grams (Opioids, crack and powder cocaine, meth and MDMA), Toronto is vying for an even more enchanting spell – no specific lines drawn, just a sweeping decriminalization for all personal drug use within the city, except for schools, daycares, and airport runways.
Why the wizardry? Toronto Public Health is aiming to untangle the mess of mental, physical, and social consequences spun by drug possession criminalization. And here’s a twist: out of 617 possession charges in 2021, a mere 36 stood alone, while the rest danced with a medley of other charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Zooming out, the global tapestry of decriminalization showcases a victorious pattern. Countries like Czechia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland have all waved their magic wands, crafting policies that put harm reduction at the forefront.
Enter Portugal, with its own brand of sorcery. A 2015 New York Times tale tells us how heroin users plummeted from 100,000 to just 25,000, while HIV diagnoses from drug injection dropped by a staggering 90%. Portugal’s magic potion? Treatment programs, weaving a new destiny for those trapped by substance dependency.
Those countries pulled off their grand tricks on a national scale. Toronto’s enchantment, however, is confined to the city limits. Greater Sudbury Police and PHSD are pondering whether this “Toronto Magic Trick” could cast a similar spell in their own realm.
PHSD’s potion master, Carlo Circelli, sees promise in the recipe. He dreams of a world where punishments transform into compassionate care, replacing fines and penalties with easy access to treatment and services. Still, don’t wave away the challenges – Toronto Public Health’s letter to Health Canada concedes policing the city’s magic realm ain’t no small feat.
So, while Toronto’s magic may be unique, Circelli suggests a more inclusive approach, sprinkling mental health support, supervised consumption services, and harm reduction into the mix.
As the “Toronto Model” unfolds, who knows? This enchantment might just inspire a spellbinding movement beyond city borders. And so, as the potions bubble and October beckons, Greater Sudbury stands ready to host its own leadership summit, weaving a tapestry of compassion and understanding into its future.