The rising overdose deaths in Vancouver, British Columbia continue to wreak havoc on communities and families. Vancouver made a call to the federal government to decriminalize the personalized possession of drugs (CBC News, 2018).

Mary Clare Zak, the Managing Director of Social Policy, described the call as new while at the same time consistent with the Four Pillars Drug Strategy of Vancouver. Some have claimed that even harm reduction innovations cannot get rid of the opioid crisis in total (Ghoussoub, 2018).

“What we’ve learned from countries, for example like Portugal, is that when you decriminalize then people are feeling like they’re actually safe enough to ask for treatment,” Zak explained, “People who are dying are more likely to be indoors and struggle with accessing help or assistance because of their illicit drug use.”

Vancouver advocates and users are in agreement with the call for immediate decriminalization of all drug possession (Lovgreen, 2018). Bellefontaine (2018) notes that the decriminalization has been rejected as on the table by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau based on a town hall held in Edmonton, Alberta.

Here are Zak’s recommendations:

  • Rapidly roll out funding for evidence-based treatment programs.
  • Support the scale up of innovative programs that provide access to safe opioids for those most at risk for overdose.
  • Support the de-stigmatization programs that are co-led by people with lived experience of substance use.
  • Continue to roll out innovative overdose prevention services in areas where users remain isolated. (CBC News, 2018)

In January alone, Vancouver had 33 overdose deaths, which was the highest number since the May of 2017. In short, the number of Canadian citizens in Vancouver dying from the opioid crisis continues to rise as a trend line. People are dying, and more and more by the month.

Zak points to a need for a “clean drug supply for people who are struggling with addiction” and decriminalization, which would likely mean regulation, would be an important part of this. The federal government is already working on the decriminalization and legislation around the legialization of marijuana.

“Decriminalizing harder drugs is not a step that Canada is looking at taking at this point,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. The NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has been publicly quoted in support of the decriminalization of personal possession of all drugs.


Bellefontaine, M. (2018, February 1). Decriminalization won’t be part of opioid fight, PM tells Edmonton town hall. Retrieved from

CBC News. (2018, March 9). City of Vancouver calls for decriminalization of drug possession. Retrieved from

Ghoussoub, M. (2018, February 3). Innovations in harm reduction can’t curb ‘catastrophic’ overdose crisis, say experts. Retrieved from

Lovgreen, T. (2018, February 20). The answer to Canada’s opioid overdose crisis is decriminalization, say Vancouver drug users and advocates. Retrieved from

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen


(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail:

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

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