CHARBONNEAU – You’re wrong Premier Smith; B.C. will win the war on addiction

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YOUR CHIEF OF STAFF says B.C. has a “drug legalization agenda,” Premier Danielle Smith. He adds that B.C. invests in treatment on a “very small scale.”

Those are fighting words, Premier Smith.

You are wrong on both counts. First, drug legalization is precisely the direction that every province should be headed. Drug abuse is a medical problem, not a legal one. Dr. Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes of UBC Faculty of Medicine says:

“If we treat addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal issue, we have a better chance of helping people who use drugs to seek treatment and improve their overall health. These types of decriminalization policies, which have been successfully employed around the world, also help reduce the stigma associated with drug use and promote dialogue among friends and family about an issue that’s often hidden or ignored.”

Prohibition has been a complete failure in harm reduction. In fact, the criminalization of drugs has made it worse. If all drugs were legal, the dosage and purity could be controlled and a lot fewer people would be dying from toxic brews distributed by criminals.

I suppose you are proud of Alberta’s Emily Murphy, Premier Smith. Despite being a racist, Murphy’s statue remains undisturbed in Emily Murphy Park, Edmonton. And Murphy is almost solely responsible for the criminalization of cannabis.

Murphy wrote under the name Janey Canuk’s in a 1922 book, The Black Candle, and in articles in Macleans magazine (I saw the original Macleans article in the Calgary library.) In it, she claimed that good white women were being led into lives of depravity by Chinese immigrants who drugged them with opium.

She claimed that cannabis users became “raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons, using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.”

A year later, Canada added cannabis to the Opium and Drugs Act with no debate, not even mentioning it by name. To this day, the exact reason why cannabis was outlawed remains a mystery – at the time, hardly anyone was using cannabis.

Since Tuesday, B.C. has an exemption to federal drug laws that allows for decriminalization of small amounts of drugs. Now the possession of small amounts of drugs – opioids, cocaine, ecstasy, meth – will no longer result in criminal charges in British Columbia.

As for treatment for drug addiction, you are wrong again, Premier Smith.

While your government has built a $24 million recovery centre in Red Deer, with 75 beds and a second will open in Lethbridge this spring, B.C. is doing a better job.

Alberta’s treatment-recovery beds will increase from 1,000 five years ago to 1,900. In B.C., we have 3,272 substance-use beds as of last June, up from 2,900 in 2017.

I welcome a competition between provinces, Premier Smith, but I suspect the comments of you chief of staff are just politics.

You are pandering to prospective voters stuck in the dark ages when people thought that making drugs and booze illegal would solve the problem.

Supplying safe drugs to addicts will save lives. More recovery centres will return the addicted to their loved ones.

David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at

About Mel Rothenburger (9489 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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