Statement on the Decriminalization of Personal Use of Psychoactive Substances

For Immediate Release
July 10, 2020
Statement on the Decriminalization of Personal Use of Psychoactive Substances
Ottawa, On -  July 10, 2020 - The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) strongly supports and applauds the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) for its leadership in recommending, to the Government of Canada, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal consumption.
“The recognition of CACP that substance use is a public health issue and should be treated as such is the leadership needed for the Government of Canada to finally make a full paradigm shift to save lives,” states CASW President, Joan Davis-Whelan. “With the COVID-19 pandemic heightening the opioid crisis, it is imperative the government act swiftly to decriminalize illegal drugs and redirect resources to support harm reduction and recovery.”
In 2018, CASW released a position statement outlining the need for a public health approach to substance use, championed by decriminalizing the personal use of psychoactive substances. 
Beyond decriminalization, CASW encourages the Government of Canada to uphold its commitment to eliminate mandatory minimums specific to drug possession. The opioid crisis demonstrates that criminalization does not reduce illegal psychoactive substance use and worsens health outcomes across the country. 
The alternative to criminalization is a public health approach based on the principles of social justice, human rights, and equity, accompanied by equitable access to evidence-informed treatment and addressing the underlying determinants of health.
For further information:
Fred Phelps, Executive Director
Tel: 613-729-6668