By Alfa · Oct 17, 2005 ·
  1. Alfa

    City calls for decriminalization

    Decriminalizing pot for personal use and limiting the number of bars in neighbourhoods are part of a sweeping new Toronto drug strategy unveiled yesterday at City Hall.

    Also among the 66 broad-ranging recommendations was a proposal to study whether Toronto needs a "supervised consumption site" for heroin and crack cocaine addicts, similar to Vancouver's controversial safe injection site.

    "Is it appropriate for Toronto?" asked Councillor Kyle Rae, who chaired the drug strategy advisory committee. "It's a methodology used around the world and we should at least have it on the table."

    Toronto Police -- part of the advisory committee that included officials from public health, school boards and groups working with addicts -- oppose safe injection sites and the federal government's efforts to decriminalize possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana.

    "Nobody goes to jail for possession of marijuana. It hasn't been a practice for years," Deputy Chief Tony Warr said. "I think it's a message

    (decriminalizing) sends ... We're creating a market for grow houses."

    The city's strategy calls for prevention and education programs for youth as well as expanding the number of treatment spaces for young addicts.

    It also includes several "harm reduction" strategies, including handing out crack kits containing mouthpieces and screens to drug users.

    Crack cocaine is the most frequently used street drug in Toronto and handing pipes to addicts gives health officials a way to "pull in a very marginalized group," said Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's medical officer of health.

    "You can't reach people ... if you can't talk to them directly," McKeown said, noting there's no solid evidence that crack kits prevent the spread of disease.

    While the ultimate goal is abstinence, McKeown said the report acknowledges that isn't likely to happen.

    "For those people who continue to use, we shouldn't abandon them," he said.

    Recent Toronto surveys found 78% of adults and 62% of high-school and junior-high students drink alcohol. Nearly 20% of students binge drink.

    About 15% of adults use pot and 23% of students have tried the drug. About 2% of adults use other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.


    Toronto's drug strategy listed some of its 66 recommendations as priorities:

    * Set up a committee to implement the drug strategy and then provide start-up staff.

    * Expand programs for families and youth.

    * Limit bars in neighbourhoods.

    * Develop a model for a 24-hour crisis centre.

    * Campaign for more treatment services.

    * Get more addiction services in jails and prisons.

    * Work with neighbourhoods.

    * Provide better information on where to go for help.

    * Study the feasibility of a supervised site for drug use.

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