As I look at the current scene, obviously cannabis legalisation is fascinating here in Canada. All the speculation will hopefully be overcome by factual evidence year by year as that happens. I’m suspecting that it’s going to be no big whoop in a certain sense that we already have our population of users and that might increase a bit, but it’s probably got a certain scope to it.
But the opioid crisis, I think, is different, and the public health response has been more interesting. Safe injection sites are now called Overdose Prevention Sites. The current conservative government [of Ontario] shut them down, but because of pressure they’ve actually had to say, “We’re going to let them open but we’re going to change their focus to treatment.” So, “we’re going to try to catch these folks and corral them into treatment” is back to that Australian model which looks more at social determinants, rather than a harm reduction view. So they don’t have the imagination for that, I think – political imagination. They just see that this is bad behaviour and ask, “Why are people being allowed to get away with using drugs? We should be coming down hard on them or getting them into treatment.”
For me, the issue we never talk about is the endemic nature of addiction, and that leads us to alcohol particularly. If we’re looking at a societal level for where the harms are coming from, that’s where it’s coming from. It just swamps the boat, compared to the other stuff.
– W.J. Wayne Skinner is an Assistant Professor and Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.