The Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy is hosting a virtual panel discussion Wednesday titled Support not Stigma: Decriminalization of Substances for Personal Use that will see experts discuss the impacts of decriminalizing drug possession for personal use.
Among the panellists will be Waterloo Regional Police Services chief Bryan Larkin, Nick Boyce from the Ontario Harm Reduction Network and Ashley Smoke from the Ontario Network of People who use Drugs.
The idea of decriminalizing drugs for personal use is not new, however recent developments in Ontario have seen some communities shifting toward an open approach to decriminalization.
In December, the Toronto Board of Health voted to ask the federal government to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's chief medical officer, supported the idea and said it was a crucial step towards helping those who use substances.
While Guelph has not taken the same route, Adrienne Crowder, Guelph Wellington Drug Strategy (GWDS) manager, said the change of status for these substances would help them access the help they need without vilifying them as illegal substance users.
“I don’t know what it would do to actual use, but what it would do is it would take the stigma off individuals who are using substances, so they would be more likely to be able to come forward and access health services and access other services without having to hide their substance use,” said Crowder. “Because if what you’re doing is illegal it’s not something that’s very easy to bring forward and talk about with your health care provider or any other service provider, so what it really does most is change the stigma around the problem.”
The Wednesday panel discussion will run from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those interesting in joining the virtual session can register here.