Book launch flyer

Monday, January 8, 2018 | | 0 comments

Book Launch:


By Susan Boyd

See attached


Pot legislation does not fail Canadas youth - a criminal record does

Sunday, June 11, 2017 | | 0 comments


Pot legislation does not fail Canada’s youth. A criminal record does

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, Jun. 10, 2017 8:00AM EDT

Jenna Valleriani is a strategic adviser for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. Rebecca Haines-Saah is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary.

On May 29, the Canadian Medical Association Journal released an editorial criticizing the government’s approach to the protection of youth in the proposed Cannabis Act. The legislation, which was introduced in April, will create a legal regulated market for adult access to non-medical cannabis in Canada. The editorial took issue with the Act’s mandated minimum age of at least 18. It argued that the minimum age should be raised to 21 and use restricted until age 25, concluding with: “If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.”

This is part of an ongoing narrative which misrepresents what it means to take a “public health approach” to drug regulation. While not neglecting individual and population-level health protection measures, fundamental to a public health approach is an emphasis on the costs of having a criminal record for cannabis possession for young Canadians, especially when criminal charges are unequally distributed amongst black and Indigenous youth, and youth who have socioeconomic disadvantages.

As outlined by the Federal Task Force, the rationale for legalization is not solely about individual-level health outcomes as potential “harms,” but also the social and legal harms associated with criminalization and prohibition. Rather than point the hypothetical finger to the “tragedies” of “lives derailed” and continuing to anchor the idea of risk solely within the individual, the author neglects the social complexities – and multiple risk factors – of how problematic use of any substance develops for youth. As we currently find ourselves in the middle of an overdose epidemic in Canada where young people are dying in unprecedented numbers, we need to critically assess our approach, face uncomfortable truths, and ask who we are actually protecting with the prohibition of drugs.

We shouldn’t ignore that Canadian young people currently have the highest prevalence of use compared to other countries under our current model of drug control which, in theory, is meant to completely restrict youth access. In reality, it creates a robust and unregulated market with easy access for all ages. While it’s easy to declare that young people simply shouldn’t use cannabis, it is well documented that this isn’t a realistic or successful approach to drug prevention. The logic is flawed when our answers point only to restrictions and abstinence, and leaves out evidence-based drug education that includes equipping adolescents with strategies to avoid harmful use, beyond a focus on abstinence-only.

A critical misrepresentation in such medicalized arguments to prevent potential “harms to the developing brain” is that the evidence has yet to conclusively establish cannabis as the sole cause of structural changes to the brain associated with diminished cognitive outcomes for youth. In most studies, the effects of cannabis use are almost always comorbid with alcohol and other drug use, and often related to differences in socioeconomic status – which have potential impacts on brain development in and of themselves. Firm conclusions that cannabis by itself is explicitly damaging to the developing brain are difficult to assess. A similar lack of evidence exists to suggest cannabis is a primary cause in the development of schizophrenia. Rather, cannabis may be one of several risk factors, or these outcomes could be a reflection of pre-existing differences which lead some young people to more substance use and risk-taking behaviours. What is continually overlooked is that the majority of young people who use cannabis do not experience these severe, negative effects.

It is frustrating to observe that in discussions about youth and cannabis use, the professional bodies that speak for the medical community in Canada have continually neglected an issue that is at the very crux of the need for drug policy reform: setting regulations which give equal weight to the “real life” harms and lifelong societal costs of criminalization. It should not be forgotten that the actual targets of this discussion are young adults (i.e. not children), who fall between the ages of 18-25 – adults by every marker of society. Setting high age limits on access and telling young people to “just say no” will not accomplish either goal of deterring youth use or reducing harms as this is simply doing more of the same that created our current situation. By now it should be abundantly clear that we do not share the pessimism – or the fears – expressed by the CMAJ editorial. Rather, we believe that legal regulation of cannabis provides a context for having new and different conversations with the young people we care about, using approaches that respect the agency of young adults to make informed decisions.


teens don't smoke more cannabis when it is legal

Friday, March 24, 2017 | | 1 comments

New York Times - Drug Raids leave a trail of blood.

Thursday, March 23, 2017 | | 1 comments



Saturday, March 18, 2017 | | 0 comments

HAT event March 27th weblink

Monday, March 13, 2017 | | 0 comments


A panel on heroin assisted treatment (HAT), March 27th, at SFU Woodward’s.



FW: Cited wants to know what you think!

Thursday, March 9, 2017 | | 0 comments




My name is Jennifer Luu and I contribute to a radio show and podcast about higher ed and research called Cited. The show is funded by Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to tell stories about academic ideas.


This week, Cited is airing a documentary about addiction treatment -- specifically, prescription heroin treatment for heroin users in Vancouver. It features interviews with doctors and patients.


We thought you might be interested in hearing it. We were also hoping that you might help us spread the word if you think your network might also be interested.


Here's a link to our tweet, our facebook post, and our blog post.


Thank you for your consideration!






drugs don't cause addiction short video

Thursday, February 23, 2017 | | 1 comments

When a Tragedy Repeats, We Have to Change - en/fr

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 | | 0 comments



Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

We are working to transform our
country's approach to drug policy.

Français »


Dear Friends of MAPS,

Close to 2000 people will die from drug overdoses in Canada this year. Thousands may suffer severe damage from non-fatal overdoses.

Back in 1994, Vince Cain, British Columbia's Chief Coroner, rang the bell when he wrote one of the strongest reports ever on the need to overhaul current drug policies. His Report of the Task Force into Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in British Columbia called for the reallocation of government funds from the criminal justice system to the health system. It also called for decriminalization and, if necessary, legalization of illegal drugs to construct a public health approach to address the overdose crisis that was devastating communities. 

Exasperated at the situation at the time, Cain called for a radical rethink.

Cain suggested "those directly affected ought to be dealt with through a medical model, not a criminal model, even to the point of providing heroin to reduce the demand from the street trafficker, replacing it through the clinic, not unlike the current situation with methadone." He also suggested that legalization of all drugs be considered. Page VI – Report of the Task Force into Illicit and Narcotic Overdose Deaths in British Columbia – Office of the Chief of Coroner. Read the full report here.

That was 22 years ago. Cain was suggesting a model to replace toxic street drugs with pharmaceutical products – a radical and brilliant idea. Put the illegal marketeers out of business. What happened?

Cain's report was shelved and a more robust response to the overdose crisis only began to emerge a decade later – too late for the thousands who had died of powerful heroin often combined with other substances. No commission was struck. Decriminalization and legalization were not explored. The status quo prevailed.

Some progress has been made but the newfound support for harm reduction and innovations in treatment have been overwhelmed by a robust and highly toxic illegal drug market that is still the primary cause of the extremely high opioid related deaths across the country. Canada is experiencing a public policy disaster; one that threatens to kill hundreds more in the coming months.

Fentanyl is a product of the war on drugs and the policy framework that underlies Canada's approach to drug control – prohibition – the same policy that Chief Coroner Cain suggested rethinking 22 years ago. Prohibition favours the manufacturing and importation of highly concentrated substances that are difficult to detect. We have seen this before. During alcohol prohibition, concentrated alcohol led to the disappearance of wine and beer, less toxic substances. Fentanyl, one of the most toxic products in today's prohibition drug market, is taking over less potent opioids. And it's here to stay.

The vast majority of the deaths we are seeing today are accidental poisonings. If thousands of people were dying in Canada of accidental poisoning from an over the counter drug, wouldn't that be a national emergency? Thousands of people! Hell, if ten people died of contaminated Tylenol it would make headlines across North America.

The past several months have been a jarring reality check. More than ever before, we need to dig out Chief Coroner Cain's recommendations to decriminalize and consider regulating all drugs. Eliminate the lethal and unregulated market.

The evidence is in. Prohibition kills. To maintain a deadly policy that leaves the production and distribution of drugs in the hands of unregulated dealers and criminal organizations is to participate in and be responsible for the thousands of deaths that occur around the world as a result of the drug war.

Some governments in Canada are working overtime to respond to the current crisis. Many good people are trying to do the right thing.

Yet no government is thinking outside of the box. No government has pledged to evaluate current drug policies to see whether they are causing more harm than good.

As Einstein said, "doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result" is the definition of insanity.

By not examining the harms caused by current drug policies, governments are allowing this health crisis to happen.  

It's time to try a new approach to drugs in Canada, one that is based in science and guided by public health principles. It needs to be respectful of human rights for all and seek to include people who use drugs and those harmed by prohibitionist drug policy. It's time to take control. 

We are committed to drafting an alternative approach to drug policy in Canada. To do this, we need your involvement and support.

If you can contribute to our work to bring about the change that a courageous Chief Coroner called for so long ago, consider making a donation today.

Your contributions and support are felt throughout the community.

Thank you for your time and support,

Donald MacPherson and the CDPC team
Find us on Facebook and Twitter

Quand une catastrophe se répète, des changements s'imposent

Cher(ère) Friends of MAPS,

Près de 2 000 personnes perdront la vie cette année au Canada, suite à des surdoses. Des milliers de personnes pourraient souffrir de graves séquelles suite à des surdoses non mortelles.

En 1994, Vince Cain, qui était, à l'époque, coroner en chef de la Colombie-Britannique, a sonné l'alerte lorsqu'il rédigea l'un des rapports les plus percutants sur la nécessité de revoir les politiques actuelles sur les drogues. Son rapport intitulé Rapport du groupe de travail sur les décès par surdose de stupéfiants narcotiques en Colombie-Britannique appelait à une réallocation des fonds publics du système de justice pénale vers le système de soins de santé. Le rapport plaidait également en faveur de la décriminalisation, et au besoin, de la légalisation des drogues illicites, afin d'amorcer un virage vers une approche axée sur la santé publique pour faire face à l'épidémie de surdoses qui dévastait les communautés.

Exaspéré par la situation, Cain réclama donc une remise en cause radicale.

Cain laissa entendre qu'il « serait souhaitable de traiter les personnes directement touchées selon un modèle médical plutôt que pénal, voire même offrir de l'héroïne afin de réduire la demande des trafiquants de rue, les remplaçant ainsi par la clinique, à l'instar de la situation actuelle en ce qui concerne la méthadone. » Il a également proposé d'envisager la légalisation de toutes les drogues. Page VI - Rapport du groupe de travail sur les décès par surdose de stupéfiants narcotiques en Colombie-Britannique - Bureau du coroner en chef. Consultez le rapport complet ici.

Tout ça s'est passé il y a 22 ans. Cain proposait un modèle permettant de remplacer les stupéfiants illicites toxiques par des produits pharmaceutiques, une idée radicalement brillante. Obliger les marchands illicites à cesser leurs activités. Que s'est-il donc passé?

Le rapport de Cain a été mis au rancart et une réaction plus vigoureuse à l'épidémie de surdoses n'a commencé à se dessiner qu'une décennie plus tard... Trop tard pour les milliers de victimes ayant succombé à une héroïne trop puissante souvent combinée à d'autres substances. Aucune commission n'a été formée. La décriminalisation et la légalisation n'ont pas été envisagées. Le statu quo est demeuré.

Des progrès ont été enregistrés, mais le soutien accru envers la réduction des méfaits et les innovations en matière de traitement a été dépassé par un marché illégal robuste de drogues hautement toxiques, qui demeure la cause première du taux très élevé de décès liés aux opioïdes d'un bout à l'autre du pays. Le Canada est aux prises avec une politique gouvernementale catastrophique. Une politique qui menace de tuer des centaines de personnes au cours des mois à venir.

Le fentanyl est le fruit de la guerre contre les stupéfiants et le cadre politique sous-tendant la stratégie du Canada envers le contrôle des drogues (prohibition) est le même que celui que Cain nous proposait de réviser il y a de cela 22 ans. La prohibition favorise la fabrication et l'importation de substances très concentrées et difficiles à déceler. Cette notion n'est pas nouvelle. Pendant la période de la prohibition de l'alcool, l'alcool concentré a mené à la disparition du vin et de la bière, qui sont en soi des substances moins toxiques. Le fentanyl, l'un des produits les plus toxiques sur le marché actuel de la drogue, surpasse les opioïdes moins puissants. Et il est là pour rester.

La grande majorité des décès que nous observons aujourd'hui sont des intoxications accidentelles. Si des milliers de personnes mouraient au Canada d'intoxications accidentelles provoquées par des médicaments en vente libre, cela ne constituerait-il pas une urgence d'ampleur nationale? Des milliers de personnes! Diable! Si dix personnes mouraient suite à une ingestion de Tylenol contaminé, ça ferait les manchettes d'un bout à l'autre de l'Amérique du Nord.

Les derniers mois ont marqué un rappel choquant à la réalité. Plus que jamais auparavant, nous devons revisiter les recommandations du coroner en chef Cain en faveur de la décriminalisation et de la réglementation de toutes les drogues. Éliminer ce marché non réglementé et mortel.

La preuve est faite. La prohibition tue. Le fait de maintenir une politique ayant des conséquences tragiques qui laisse la production et la distribution de drogues aux mains de trafiquants non réglementés et d'organisations criminelles signifie que nous participons et sommes responsables des milliers de décès liés à la guerre contre les stupéfiants partout dans le monde.

Certains gouvernements canadiens consacrent des heures supplémentaires afin de faire face à la crise actuelle. Un grand nombre de bonnes personnes tente de rectifier les choses.

Et pourtant les gouvernements craignent de penser autrement. Aucun gouvernement ne s'est engagé à évaluer les politiques actuelles sur les drogues afin de déterminer si elles causent plus de tort que de bien.

Comme l'a dit Einstein, « le comble de l'absurdité, c'est de répéter les mêmes gestes constamment et de s'attendre à des résultats différents ».

En négligeant d'examiner les préjudices causés par les politiques actuelles en matière de drogues, les gouvernements permettent à cette crise sanitaire de sévir. 

L'heure est venue d'adopter une nouvelle stratégie au Canada, une approche fondée sur des données scientifiques et des principes de santé publique. Cette approche doit respecter les droits de tous les humains et chercher à inclure les consommateurs de drogues, ainsi que ceux qui subissent les effets néfastes des politiques prohibitionnistes sur la drogue. Il est temps de prendre les choses en main.

Nous nous sommes engagés à rédiger une approche alternative à la politique sur les drogues au Canada. À cette fin, nous vous demandons votre soutien et votre implication. 

Si vous êtes en mesure de contribuer à nos travaux et de nous aider à produire le changement auquel aspirait jadis ce courageux coroner en chef, songez à faire un don dès aujourd'hui.

Vos contributions et votre appui se propagent à l'ensemble de la communauté.


Donald MacPherson et l'équipe de la CCPD
Facebook et Twitter


Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction
2400 505 West Hastings St, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC V6B 5K3, Canada

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FW: It's time to decriminalize drugs, commission report says

Monday, November 21, 2016 | | 0 comments

Subject: It's time to decriminalize drugs, commission report says

It's time to decriminalize drugs, commission report says