June 21st, 2024

‘Incredibly premature’ to consider drug decriminalization, Alberta police chiefs say

By The Canadian Press on February 22, 2023.

Needles are seen on the ground in Oppenheimer park in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on March 17, 2020. The Alberta Association of Chief of Police says it believes, based on research it commissioned, it would be "incredibly premature" to think about decriminalizing drugs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

CALGARY – The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police says it believes, based on research it commissioned, that it would be “incredibly premature” to think about decriminalizing drugs.

Instead, it says there must be a systemic and ordered approach in place that prioritizes community safety before such a strategy can be considered.

A paper, commissioned by the association and released at a recovery conference in Calgary, says problematic use of substances is a complex social issue that needs more than one solution.

The research, led by the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance, says the idea of decriminalizing simple possession of illicit substances has generated considerable debate in Canada.

It adds there have been growing calls for decriminalization since British Columbia got a federal exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow for the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police have supported decriminalization as part of an integrated set of reforms.

Mark Neufeld, who is president of the Alberta chiefs association and Calgary’s police chief, says social agencies, health-care providers and the justice system must work together to solve this “wickedly complex” issue.

“Balancing the needs of the individual with the needs of the community is no easy task,” he said in a news release Wednesday. “People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake and we have to get this right.”

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said there’s no single fix to the addictions crisis.

“We have to stop trying to ad hoc our way out of this crisis by rushing to ideas like decriminalization, which will actually exacerbate challenges.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.

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