Canadian Public Health Physicians Join BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Calling for Evidence-Based Drug Policy to Improve Community Health and Safety
Dr. Perry Kendall of British Columbia and Dr. Robert Strang of Nova Scotia call for evaluation of alternative strategies to reduce unwanted harms incurred by current approach to illicit drugs
28 March, 2012 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Two Canadian chief provincial medical health officers
have highlighted discordance between scientific evidence and drug policy decision-making, and endorsed a discussion of new approaches,
including the evaluation of taxation and regulation strategies as a more effective way to improve community health and safety in
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) today published a paper in Open Medicine, an international,
peer-reviewed medical journal reviewing the evidence on the effectiveness of current illicit-drug policies. The opinions
expressed in the paper by the authors are their own professional opinions as public health physicians and do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of their employers.
The paper focuses on cannabis and concludes: "In light of the persistently widespread availability
and relative safety of cannabis in comparison to existing legal drugs, as well as the crime and violence that
exist secondary to prohibition of this drug, there is a need for discussion about the optimal regulatory
strategy to reduce the harms of cannabis use while also reducing unintended policy-attributable
consequences (e.g., the organized crime that has emerged under prohibition)."
The paper recommends that the Canadian government re-evaluate strategies such as mandatory minimum
sentences, which have proven costly and ineffective in other nations. It notes that a growing number of European
countries, such as Portugal and Holland, have treated drug use as a health rather than a criminal justice
issue and have seen lower rates of drug use, as well as lower rates of drug-related harms such as HIV
infections, overdose deaths, and crime.
"There is clear evidence to demonstrate that the so called war on drugs has not achieved its stated
objectives of reducing rates of drug use or drug availability," said Dr. Perry Kendall, chief provincial medical
health officer for B.C. and co-author of the paper. "There are alternative approaches that have proved more
effective in protecting public heath while not enriching organized crime and driving gang violence."
Dr. Evan Wood, co-director, Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC-CfE and one of the co-authors
of the paper said that in the face of overwhelming evidence that the war-on-drugs approach is ineffective, the
status quo must change if we really want to effectively counter the harms of illicit drugs and work towards
creating safer communities for our children.
There has been growing support for regulation and taxation of marijuana in B.C. and the
debate for drug policy reform has been gaining momentum across Canada. Earlier this year, Canada's
Liberal party voted in favour of the resolution to tax and regulate marijuana citing the failure
of the war-on-drugs strategy. Recently, in B.C., former Vancouver mayors, premiers and
provincial attorneys general have spoken out in favour of taxation and regulation of marijuana.
"Canada needs to pause and re-evaluate its current approach to drug policy and embrace evidence-based
strategies that can meaningfully improve community health and safety," said Dr. Robert Strang, chief provincial
medical health officer for Nova Scotia and co-author of the paper.
To read the full paper titled Improving community health and safety in Canada through evidence-based
policies on illegal drugs, please go to: http://www.openmedicine.ca/ .
About the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS:
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment
and education facility. The BC-CfE is based at St. Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. The BC-CfE
is dedicated to improving the health of British Columbians with HIV through developing, monitoring and disseminating comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases.
For additional information or to request an interview, please contact:
Edelman (for BC-CfE)
604-623-3007 ext. 297